Typical habitat for Ivory Gulls includes pack ice or areas of open water surrounded by ice (polynyas). The Ivory Gull is an uncommon migrant in the Beaufort Sea and may winter in offshore leads (fractures in the sea ice exposing open water) in some years.
Ivory Gulls nest in Nunavut on windswept plateaus, ice-choked islands, or on steep cliffs of mountains protruding from glaciers. The size of nesting colonies ranges from a few to 200 pairs. The female Ivory Gull lays one to three eggs.
Large expanses of the western arctic are apparently unsuitable for nesting Ivory Gulls because there is no ice-free ocean regularly available when the birds arrive to breed. Furthermore, the flat vegetated landscape of these islands supports predators of the Ivory Gull, such as foxes.