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This Is What It Looks like When Thousands of Migratory Birds Descend on Peru

Gaviotas de Franklin. Imagen en Flickr del usuario .Daniel Hernández P (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Franklin's gulls. Image on Flickr by user Daniel Hernández P (CC BY-NC 2.0).

By mid December, as part of their migratory process, thousands of Franklin's gulls arrive to the Pantanos de Villa Wildlife Refuge, at Chorrillos district, in Peruvian capital Lima. Most of these birds fly along many kilometers from Canada, Mexico, California Gulf and Central America leaving behind Northern Hemisphere winter season on the journey they embrace during November and December:

Las especies avizoradas son la gaviota de Franklin (Leucophaeus pipixcan), el gaviotín elegante (Thalasseus elegans), el chorlo semipalmado (Charadrius semipalmatus), el falaropo de Wilson (Phalaropus tricolor), y el Gaviotín de patas negras (Thalasseus sandvicensis), entre otras migrantes del norte.

The species spotted are Franklin's gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan), elegant tern (Thalasseus elegans), semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), Wilson's phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) and sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis), among other migrant birds from up north.

This bird in named after the British Royal Navy officer and arctic explorer John Franklin.

On her Facebook page, ornithologist Irma Franke shared the spectacle offered by the birds as they went through Lima in late November:

It snowed in Lima today. At least, that's what I thought until I realized it was 30,000 Franklin's Gulls. This was just on one small section of beach south of Lima; all told we probably saw around 300,000 individuals today. Incredible movement, migration spectacle, it was an awesome event. No passports required.

The blog Animales y plantas del Perú (Animals and plants from Peru) shared more details about Franklin's gull:

La Gaviota de Franklin no es originaria de Perú, pero los peruanos la hemos adoptado como nuestra, porque nos visita desde hace siglos en los meses de primavera y verano.
Entre las gaviotas, las Franklin son las campeonas de la migración de largas distancias.
La gaviota de Franklin (Leucophaeus pipixcan) es una especie de ave de la familia de las gaviotas (Laridae), nombrada en honor al explorador ártico John Franklin. […] es una gaviota pequeña (35 cm) se caracteriza por su capucha de un color negro intenso con anteojeras blancas, patas y pico rojo oscuro con punta terminal negra. Tiene las alas grises, con las puntas con salpicado de blancos y negros.

Franklin's gull isn't native to Peru, but we Peruvians have adopted it as ours as it visits us for centuries during spring and summer.
Among the gulls, Franklin's are masters of long distance migration.
Franklin's gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is a bird species from the gull family (Laridae), named after Arctic explorer John Franklin. […] it's a small gull (35 cm) characterized by its dark black color with white spectacles, red dark legs and black-end beak. It has gray wings, with tips splashed in white and  black.

About their route, web Aves de Lima (Lima birds) explains this species the long journey, that lives in large colonies in lakes and wetlands, from southern Canada to South Dakota and Minnesota in the United States.

Entre las gaviotas, las Franklin son las campeonas de la migración de largas distancias. Después de anidar en las praderas norteamericanas, tienen una muda de plumaje completo. Luego vuelan hacia el sur a la costa de Texas y continúan hasta la costa del Caribe de México al istmo de Tehuantepec. De ahí vuelan sobre tierra a lo largo de la costa del Pacífico hasta el Perú y Chile. Durante el invierno acá pasan por una muda completa de plumas y siguen la misma ruta de regreso. Son la única especie de gaviota que pasan por dos mudas completas de plumas, que son necesarias para afrontar una migración de 8.000 kilómetros de vuelo.”

Among the gulls, Franklin's master long distance migration. After nesting in North American prairies, they completely molt [shed their feathers]. Then they fly south to Texas coastline and then they go on to Caribbean Mexico to Tehuantepec isthmus. From there, over land all along the Pacific coast to Peru and Chile. During winter here, they go through a complete molt and make the same way back. It's the only gull species that goes through two complete molts, which is necessary to face an 8.000-kilometer migration flight.

The website Descubriendo hojas (Uncovering leaves) posts several photos of the different species that can be seen at the Pantanos de Villa. And on Twitter, various users posted images and videos with the arrival of the migratory birds:

Pantanos de villa… today.

Beautiful spectacle: migratory gulls arrive to the Pantanos de Villa.

Franklin's gulls arrived to Pantanos de Villa!

Lots of migratory birds arrived to Pantanos de Villa by this time of the year.

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