Sabine’s Gull occurrence in California and Western Europe

Sabine´s Gull adultOne of the beauties in the Gull-family, Sabine’s Gulls (Xema sabini) is rarely seen in western Europe albeit on exposed seawatching spots or pelagic trips mainly in fall. Sabine’s Gull breed on coastal tundra around the shores of the Arctic Oceans. They migrate mainly at sea.
On Migration, Siberian and Alaskan birds winter off the coast of Columbia and Peru. They disburse east across the Pacific Ocean passing down the west coast of the US, where they are often seen on offshore trips. The best way to see this oceanic species is to take a boat trip out of Monterey, California, or some other Pacific Coast city. The wintering range is not fully known but obviously some birds winter off the Pacific coast of northern South America.
Canandian and Greenland birds disperse east passing along the coast of Europe to winter off the coast of Africa. After strong westerly winds they are seen on European seawatching spots – e.g. the western coast of Cornwall – usually in September and October. Only a few birds show up on coast making it a sought after pelagic in european waters. is proud to show images of birds taken in California as well as taken in South-west England. The images in the gallery were taken in California in mid August and show adult birds as well as juveniles. The adult gulls are still showing its breeding plumages with a full-black hood. The images taken on pelagic trips off the Isles of Scilly in mid September showed adult birds only. These gulls were showing a transition plumage with breeding elements visible very well. It should be noted that on pelagic trips in August from the Scillies there were no Sabine’s Gulls seen at all!
It might be, that – as in other migrating bird species – the offspring of a year generally leave the breeding area earlier. But then, it is still strange, that there were no records of Sabine’s Gulls in August from the Scillies although the Scillies lay on a higher latidude (49° 57′ N) than the sites visited in California (26°25′ N).

According to the article “Trans-equatorial migration, staging sites and wintering area of Sabine’s Gulls Larus sabini in the Atlantic Ocean” by J. Iain in Ibis, Volume 154, Issue 1,pages 42–51, from January 2012 () Sabine’s Gulls breeding in northeast Greenland or Canada performe an average annual migration of almost 32,000 km. On their southern migration, they spent some time in the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Sea, off the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal. They all wintered in close association with the cold waters of the Benguela Upwelling. On their return north, Sabine’s Gulls staged off the west African coast (Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal). The return migration was particularly rapid. The birds were travelling an average of more than 800 km per day, assisted by the prevailing winds.

This delicate gull is seldom seen outside the breeding season as it is almost exclusively oceanic. On the tundra coastline it gracefully plucks small crustaceans and insects from the surface of the water like a tern.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic, Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to sites at the sea like the Isles of Scilly or to locations like the Macin Mountains in Romania, far away or to tourist spots like the island of Fuerteventura to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. These nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.
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