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Home / Bird watching: Ultra rare ivory gull spotted near Eastern Iowa
Bird enthusiasts relied heavily on social media this week to share the thrill of seeing a whiter-than-white and rarer-than-rare ivory gull.
'This was definitely my dream bird. I feel like I won the lottery,” said Diana Pesek of Cedar Rapids, who learned from a rare bird alert via email that an ivory gull, which seldom strays from its high Arctic haunts, had been spotted last Friday on the Mississippi River at Quincy, Ill.
Chris Edwards, a member of the Iowa City Bird Club and the Iowa Ornithological Union's records committee, got the same notice. Like Pesek, he was unable to drive the 150 miles to Quincy until Sunday.
'A good number of my birder friends went Saturday, and they all got to see it, but you never know if a bird is going to stay put,” Pesek said. It did, and Pesek and Edwards easily found the rare bird Sunday.
Pesek said she drove directly to the Pier Restaurant where the bird had been reported the previous day. Before she even got out of the vehicle, she looked across the backwater, 'and there it was, flying right in front of me,” she said.
Pesek, who had the area to herself, said she reported the sighting on Facebook and was soon joined by 50 other birders.
Pesek said the ivory gull, which became the 621st bird on her life list, topped her personal list of most desirable birds not only because of its rarity but also because of its beauty. 'It's so white that it just shines,” she said.
Edwards and Pesek said it was a bird they never expected to see.
With few exceptions, 'you would have to be able and willing to travel to the high Arctic to see one,” Edwards said.
The current sighting is the third recorded in Illinois. Iowa has two recorded sightings - in 1975 at Lake Rathbun and in 1990 at Red Rock Lake. The Quincy bird became Missouri's first recorded sighting when it flew across the river.
As of Thursday, when the ivory gull was seen for the seventh straight day, people from at least 12 states had traveled to Quincy to see it.
Edwards said he had his best look from 50 yards.
'There were at least 50 people there, and their presence did not seem to bother the gull,” he said.
The ivory gull feeds primarily on small fish and mammal carcasses and is rarely found away from pack ice in the high Arctic, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Global population is estimated at 12,000 pairs.