Garbage Dump Gulls at the Flathead Gullery

The Flathead Gullery

The Flathead Gullery

As I cleaned my over-flowing edited images folder from the past few months, I came across a series of photos from an afternoon spent with the gulls from the lovely Flathead County Sanitary Landfill or as we call it, the Flathead Gullery. Ok, it’s a dump, it stinks, it looks apocalyptic, and the gulls love this place. In the not too distant past, the gulls seemed to favor the Polson Landfill, but with the closure of that dump, the gulls packed up and moved a bit north. The Flathead Gullery absolutely swarms with gulls every winter. As you drive past the bewildered front gate attendant, “I’m here to watch your gulls. Nope, no garbage,” you begin to see swirls of gulls as they avoid the dump machinery that makes no attempts to avoid the birds.

This place is near and dear to the hearts of Montana birders. Despite its muddy roads and garbage-infused aroma, birders that have been coming this dump have been treated to Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Iceland, Thayer’s, Mew, California, and Ring-billed Gulls. The first five species in that list can be incredibly difficult to find in Montana. The Glaucous and Thayer’s are regulars to the Flathead Gullery, and Mew Gulls are seen almost every year. The Glaucous-winged has been seen 2 out of the last 3 years.

I am always prone to day-dreaming, I wonder about what will be the next rare gull species to turn up at the Flathead Gullery. I am placing my bets on the Lesser Black-Backed Gull, which was sighted at Fort Peck this past winter.

Vicious-looking Herring Gull

Vicious-looking Herring Gull

Another Herring Gull

Another Herring Gull

Herring Gull with pink legs

Herring Gull with pink legs

Ring-billed Gulls in the semi-frozen mud

Ring-billed Gulls in the semi-frozen mud

Glaucous Gull strolling

Glaucous Gull strolling

Posed out Glaucous Gull

Posed out Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull standing at attention

Glaucous Gull standing at attention

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Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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