SABINE’S GULL

SABINE’S GULL (Xema sabini) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Sabine’s Gull adult has a black head, a grey back and wings. Neck, tail and under parts are white. Primary flight feathers are black edged in white. Eyes are black with a red eye ring. Bill, legs and feet are black. Bill tip is yellow. Juvenile is washed out brown on white. This is a small gull at about 30 cm (12 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Xema-sabini
NAME: ‘Gull’ would have its origins in Old Celtic ‘Gullan’ and other languages, including Latin ‘gula’ for throat. As per Choate this would be related to the gull’s ‘indiscriminate’ scavenging habits, its ‘willingness to swallow almost anything’ (think ‘gullible’). ‘Sabine’s’ was given to that species to honor Irish ornithologist Edward Sabine. Latin genus name ‘Xema’ means nothing – seriously!
HABITAT: Coastal tundra in summer, pelagic (open ocean) outside breeding season.
DIET: Omnivorous – fish, insects, birds, eggs.
NESTING: Breeds in colonies in coastal tundra. Nest is a shallow depression on the ground. Usually two or three greenish eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. Young can feed themselves soon after hatching, cared for by parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in the Arctic tundra – Greenland and Russia, migrates on the Atlantic Ocean and along East Pacific Coast, winters along coastal northwest South America and coastal southeast Africa.
Distribution Map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabine%27s_gull#/media/File:Xema_sabini_map.svg
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population widespread, currently not at risk, but vulnerable to oil pollution.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Bonaparte’s Gull, Black-headed Gull, Laughing Gull
REFERENCES: http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/504/overview/Sabines_Gull.aspx
https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/sabines-gull
http://www.npolar.no/en/species/sabines-gull.html (Norwegian Polar Institute)
http://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABNNM06010 (Montana Field Guide)
https://www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com/spitsbergen-information/wildlife/sabines-gull.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabine%27s_gull
download .pdf from Alaska
https://app.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob5790.htm (British Trust for Ornithology)
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sabines_Gull/id
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/sabines-gull

Sabine's Gull on the water - Iceland - May 2011 - photo by Ómar Runólfsson
Sabine’s Gull on the water – Iceland – May 2011 – photo by Ómar Runólfsson
Sabine's Gull flying, front view - Spitsbergen, Norway - July 2017 - photo by Shlomo Yona
Sabine’s Gull flying, front view – Spitsbergen, Norway – July 2017 – photo by Shlomo Yona
Sabine's Gull in flight - Iceland - May 2011 - photo by Ómar Runólfsson
Sabine’s Gull in flight – Iceland – May 2011 – photo by Ómar Runólfsson

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