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Sabine's Gull Xema sabini
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Larus sabini AERC TAC (2003), Larus sabini Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993), Larus sabini Cramp and Simmons (1977-1994), Larus sabini Christidis and Boles (1994)

Distribution and population
Sabine's Gull breeds in the arctic and has a circumpolar distribution through northernmost North America and Eurasia. It migrates south during the autumn, wintering in the cold waters of the Humboldt current off the coast of Peru and Ecuador and off the south-west coast of Africa in the cold waters of the Benguela Current (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.330,000-700,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while the population in Russia has been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is a long-distance migrant (Olsen and Larsson 2003) that migrates offshore between its breeding and wintering grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It returns to the breeding grounds from late-May to early-June when the Arctic tundra is still snow-covered, and breeds in colonies of 6 to 15 or occasionally up to 60 pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species may also nest solitarily or as single pairs amidst colonies of Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea (del Hoyo et al. 1996). After breeding the adults and juveniles depart the breeding grounds from late-July to August (Olsen and Larsson 2003), migrating in flocks of up to a hundred individuals and spending the winter in small flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1996) or as solitary individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat Breeding The species breeds on coastal (Snow and Perrins 1998) tundra wetlands (del Hoyo et al. 1996) in the Arctic (del Hoyo et al. 1996), showing a preference for swampy, moss and sedge tundra with many lakes (Flint et al. 1984), floodlands and low-lying shallow brackish pools, especially where these contain islets or narrow peninsulas of grass or moss and have low, moist margins that provide feeding areas (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species is pelagic (del Hoyo et al. 1996), occurring in cold water upwelling zones south of the equator (Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Breeding When breeding its diet consists of adult and larval insects (Flint et al. 1984) (e.g. springtails Collembola), Arachnids, small fish and carrion, as well as small birds and the eggs of Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea and conspecifics (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species also takes seeds and plant matter on its arrival to the breeding grounds before the Arctic ice melts and other prey items become available (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species takes marine invertebrates and small fish (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape (Richards 1990) or more substantial cup of grass (del Hoyo et al. 1996), moss, seaweed and feathers (Richards 1990) placed on rocky, barren (del Hoyo et al. 1996) or damp ground vegetated with moss (Flint et al. 1984) or grass, usually near the edge of water (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Flint, V.E., Boehme, R.L., Kostin, Y.V. and Kuznetsov, A.A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Olsen, K. M.; Larsson, H. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.

Richards, A. 1990. Seabirds of the northern hemisphere. Dragon's World Ltd, Limpsfield, U.K.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J. & Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Xema sabini. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Sabine's gull (Xema sabini) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author (Sabine, 1819)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 948,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment