Sabine's Gull Xema sabini


The Sabine’s Gull is unusual due to various reasons. This is an Holarctic breeding species, which is restricted as a breeder to the high Arctic. During the non breeding season it becomes entirely pelagic, seldom being seen from shore. In addition, it is a long distance migrant one of only two species of gulls in the New World that winters in the opposite hemisphere. Due to its pelagic winter habits, its specific wintering distribution is almost entirely unknown. In South America most are found offshore from Peru to central Chile; although some may winter farther south than this. In fact the winter distribution may shift depending on water temperatures, and fluctuations such as ENSO events. Although in North America it is clear that a few Sabine’s Gulls migrate off the Atlantic Coasts, there are no Atlantic records in South America suggesting that these North Atlantic birds may in fact winter off Africa instead of South America. Much still needs to be determined regarding the movements and range of this species. Sabine’s Gulls also have a unique wing pattern, showing a black wedge on the outer wing, and a bold white triangle on the inner wing; the tail is moderately forked and the black bill has a yellow tip. Molecular data suggests that its closest relative is actually the Arctic endemic Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea).

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© Michael Andersen

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: