The unusual Sabine’s gull (Xema sabine) is named after Edward Sabine, who first discovered the species at Melville Bay in Greenland in 1818 (3). This species is highly distinctive, especially when in flight, as its long, pointed wings have an immediately identifiable black, white and grey triangular pattern on the upper surfaces (3). The head is dark grey (2) (3), which contrasts with the white neck, breast, belly and rump, and the slightly forked tail is also white and has a black band on the tip. When the wings are not extended, only the grey areas are visible, and the back is also grey (2). The small bill of Sabine’s gull is black with a yellow tip (2) (3), the legs are black-grey (2) and the dark brown centre of the eyes (3) is encircled by a bright red ring (2).
After the breeding season in October, the characteristic dark grey head of Sabine’s gull becomes almost entirely white, with just a small amount of grey on the rear of the head and neck (2). There are few physical differences between the male and female Sabine’s gull, except for the male being slightly larger (3). The juvenile is grey-brown on the back of the head, back and wings, which have the same triangular pattern seen in the adult, and has a black tip to the tail (2). The throat, breast and underside of the juvenile are white, and the bill is black with a yellow tip on the upperside and pink or flesh-coloured on the underside (3).
Sabine’s gull makes many vocalisations, including groaning, chirping and rattling (3).
There are four recognised subspecies of Sabine’s gull: Xema sabini palaearctica, Xema sabini tschuktschorum, Xema sabini woznesenskii and Xema sabini sabini. These all differ in their range and colouration (2).
- Mouette de Sabine.
- Length: 27 - 33 cm (2)
- Wingspan: 81 - 87 cm (2)
- 135 - 225 g (2)