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Sabine’s gull (Larus sabini or Xema sabini)

Sabine’s gull

Sabine’s gull on Cor­a­hol­men.

Descrip­ti­on: Being 33 cm long and weig­hing only 150-210 g, the Sabine’s gull is a rather small gull. It is the only gull in Sval­bard with a black head and is thus easy to iden­ti­fy – if you hap­pen to see this very rare bird at all. The sexes look ali­ke. The flight of a Sabine’s gull is very ele­gant and resem­bles a swallow’s; the wing tips are black.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­ons: The Sabine’s gull breeds in the sub-Arc­tic and high Arc­tic from north Ame­ri­ca, Green­land and Sval­bard to the Rus­si­an Arc­tic. With a few bree­ding pairs in nort­hern parts only (Mof­fen, Lågøya and a very few other sites in the north and nor­the­ast of Nord­aus­t­land), it is one of Svalbard’s rarest bree­ding birds. Sabine’s gulls spend the win­ter off sou­thwest Afri­ca and sou­thwes­tern South Ame­ri­ca.

Sabine’s gull

Sabine’s gull in Aus­t­fjord.

Bio­lo­gy: Important food sources inclu­de small fishes and mari­ne inver­te­bra­tes, occa­sio­nal­ly also eggs and chicks from other birds. The Sabine’s gull nests on flat, dry tun­dra in the vicini­ty of small ponds. Chicks hatch after 23 to 26 days from the two or three eggs. They lea­ve the nest after only a few hours, to fol­low their par­ents to the coast or to a pond whe­re they wait until they are able to fly. Young birds pro­bab­ly spend their first sum­mer in the win­te­ring are­as.

Sabine’s gull

Sabine’s gull on Cor­a­hol­men in Ekmanfjord.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: The­re are pro­bab­ly fewer than ten bree­ding pairs in Sval­bard and sightin­gs are accord­in­gly very rare. Simi­lar­ly glo­bal­ly, with about 10,000 bree­ding pairs, this spe­ci­es is not very abundant. Trai­ned eyes with good bino­cu­lars or tele­scopes may be lucky to spot it near Mof­fen or north of Nord­aus­t­land, espe­cial­ly if the­re is drift ice around. Sabine’s gulls like to breed in colo­nies of aggres­si­ve Arc­tic terns that cha­se any aggres­sor away.

The spe­ci­es owes its name to Sir Edward Sabi­ne, who dis­co­ve­r­ed the bird in 1818 in Green­land.

Sabine’s gull

Sabine’s gull, Cor­a­hol­men.

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last modification: 2019-03-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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