(MacGillivray, 1824, Melville Peninsula, Canada)
The Ross's Gull (Rhodostethia rosea) is a small gull, the only species in its genus, although it has been suggested it should be moved to the genus Hydrocoloeus, which otherwise only includes the Little Gull. This bird is named after the British explorer James Clark Ross.
This small bird is similar in size and some plumage characteristics to the Little Gull. It is slightly larger and longer winged than that species, and has more-pointed wings and a wedge-shaped tail. Its legs are red. Summer adults are pale grey above and white below, with a pink flush to the breast, and a neat black neck ring. In winter, the breast tints and neck collar are lost and a small dark crescent develops behind the eye.
Young birds resemble winter adults, but have a dark "W" pattern on the wings in flight, like young Little Gulls. The juveniles take two years to attain full adult plumage.
Distribution and habitat
Ross's Gull breeds in the high Arctic of northernmost North America, and northeast Siberia. It migrates only short distances south in autumn, most of the population wintering in northern latitudes at the edge of the pack ice in the northern Bering Sea and in the Sea of Okhotsk, although some birds reach more temperate areas, such as north west Europe. In North America, a Ross's Gull has been spotted as far south as Salton Sea in California, although sightings this far south are extremely rare. The summer breeding grounds are tundra with sedges, grass tussocks, dwarf willows, bushes, lichens and pools.
The Ross's Gull breeds in small colonies on tundras and swampy Arctic estuaries, often nesting with other seabirds such as Arctic Terns. It lays two to three eggs in a nest on the ground lined with seaweed, grass or moss, often on an island in a little lake. The eggs are olive green with small reddish-brown spots. Incubation takes about three weeks and the chicks fledge in another three weeks. Not all pairs successfully rear their young as predators and bad weather often take their toll.
This bird will eat any suitable small prey such as small fish and crustaceans, and during the winter often feeds on mudflats like a wader. During the breeding season it is largely insectivorous, feeding on beetles and flies.