• Sabine's Gull

    Common NameSabine's Gull
    Scientific NameXema sabini
    Type of ReportOut-of-Season
    Date of Observation12/03/2016
    Number Observed1
    Reporting Observer's NameJim Mead
    Mailing Address798 Metcalf Drive
    Williston, VT 05495
    United States
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    EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
    Date Completed12/04/2016
    Latitude of Observation44.5333652
    Longitude of Observation-73.2777677
    Place NameDelta Park
    Vermont eBird Checklist URLebird.org
    Time of Day08:37 AM
    Length of Time Observed5 min
    Maximum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)5280
    Minimum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)2640
    Noteworthy Weather Conditions

    wind direction- NW wind speed- 12 mph sky cover- completely cloudy light in relation to observer's position sun behind me but no sunlight

    Optical Equipment Used for Observation

    Kowa TSN-884 Promiser 20-60 power lens.

    Observer’s Previous Acquaintance With This or Similar Species

    I have only ever seen juveniles. 1 in 2007, 1 in 2011, 1 in 2014 on 4 different days and all 3 were seen at the
    Charlotte Town Beach.

    I certify that that attachments included with this report were captured during this observation event​​.
    Description of Habitat

    Lake Champlain on a day with strong winds out of the NW and white caps. Other species were 10 Ring-billed
    Gulls, 3 Mallards and 23 Canada Geese.

    Behaviors Observed

    This bird was flying into the wind, rising up and then back down to the water’s surface. I think it was picking
    food off the surface. It was by itself but at one point a Ring-billed Gull passed by it and showed a
    conspicuous size difference, as it was much larger than the Sabine’s. I watched the Sabine’s for about 5
    minutes straight and would did take my eye away from the scope in fear that I would lose sight of it. It was in
    flight the entire time of my observation.

    Description of Vocalizations

    none heard.

    Verbal Narrative & Description of Observation

    Relative size and shape: Small gull about the size of a Bonaparte’s Gull. Pointed wings, shortish dark bill and a
    straight edged tail (not rounded like a Bonaparte’s). Striking pattern on the upper side of the gull. Crisp and
    clean lines delineating three different colored areas of the wings and body.


    The forehead, face and throat were white. The nape and back half of the top and back of head were brownish.

    Feet & Bill

    I did not see the feet or legs but the bill was short & black

    Upper Back

    The entire upper side of the body was brownish. That coloration went from the middle of the head
    to the base of the tail (including the rump) and reached across each inner wing along the leading edge from the
    base of the wing near the shoulder to the wrist and from the wrist, diagonally back toward the base of the tail.

    Lower Back & Rump

    See above


    Fairly sizable wings that came to a point at their tips. The outer wings
    showed a solid black leading edge that went from the wrist to somewhere in the middle of the primary
    wingtips, forming a triangular type of shape. The rest of the outer wing and the rest of the inner wing that the
    previously described brownish area did not cover, were completely white (including the trailing edge in those
    areas). That white area also formed a triangular type of shape. The underside of the wings appeared light

    Breast, Belly, Flanks, Under Tail Coverts

    The front of breast, belly, flanks and under tail coverts were white. There was a bit of brown coloration on the sides of the neck/breast.


    The tail from above and below was white, looked straight across at the tip and showed a black terminal band.

    IMPORTANT: What similar species were eliminated when making the identification and how was this bird different?

    There are several small gulls to compare this Sabine’s to so I will address some of them one at a time. A Little
    Gull juvenile would show a rather bold black M or W pattern formed along the leading edge of the outer wind
    from the tip to the wrist and diagonally from the wrist to the base of the tail. This Sabine’s did not have any
    black coloration along the diagonal line from the wrist to the base of the tail. A Bonaparte’s Gull juvenile can
    easily be eliminated because it would show a black trailing edge across the entire length of the wing and it also
    would have a rounded tail tip. A Black-headed Gull in all plumages would show a white triangular shape along
    the leading edge of the outer wing, not a black one like this Sabine’s. A Ross’s Gull juvenile also has a similar M
    or W pattern on the wings as the Little Gull juvenile, thus eliminating it because of the diagonal line being black.
    It would also show a wedge shaped tail. Even though a Black-legged Kittiwake juvenile is much larger than a
    Sabine’s Gull, it too needs to be looked at because of the M or W pattern on the wings. Once again it too can be
    eliminated because of the diagonal being black. This bird however, comes closest to matching the large white
    triangular area of the Sabine’s as previously described above.

    Other Notes & Comments

    The brown coloration of the upper parts of the body and the black terminal band on the tail, age this bird as a juvenile.

    This report was written from notes taken:During the Observation

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