Franklin's Gull
(Leucophaeus pipixcan)


Picture of bird
© Kirk Davis
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Canada holds over 80% of this species’ breeding range in the Prairie Provinces, mostly in large, bulrush or cattail-dominated freshwater marshes across the prairies and the boreal plain (Beyersbergen et al. 2009). Tracking Franklin’s Gull populations is difficult because colonies tend to relocate depending on water levels and are often difficult to access. Available results from the Breeding Bird Survey suggest a large decrease since the 1970s, though the reliability of this assessment is considered low. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseLowBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000,000 - 2,000,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery High

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late April and early May and ends in late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Franklin's Gull is heavily dependent on prairie wetlands for breeding. Further, they require suitable reed beds for constructing floating nests, usually in water no shallower than 37 cm and no deeper than 125 cm (Beyersbergen et al. 2009). Additional stressors include power line and wind farm collisions (Villegas-Patraca and Herrera-Alsina 2015), sudden water level changes, and human disturbance during the breeding season (Burger and Gochfeld 2009). Though the species was once threatened by large-scale habitat loss due to drainage, prairie wetland restoration and recreation appear to be mitigating previous losses (Burger and Gochfeld 2009).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other