Sabine's Gull - bird 1 - Magic Moments 2012

Friday, 1st February 2013

Sabine's Gull  Larus / Xema Sabini - adult

Photographed at Portland Bill, Dorset, UK on August 30th 2012

Magic Moments from 2012

I took these pictures with my old camera, so they are not so sharp - but who cares? How often does the chance come up to see, yet alone photograph this truly delightful species, in adult plumage, 'at rest' - in the UK? Once in a lifetime, if we are lucky maybe. Thanks Paul. What a find!

Sabine's Gull - Portland Bill - August 30th 2012.

This adult bird most likely left breeding grounds in Canada in July 2012.

The gull has a complete hood, and no traces of black remaining in the tail, or a brownish tinge to the upperparts. It must therefore be older than a  (northern) 'first summer' individual.

There is very little white flecking to the head. Moult in this area will have already started or begin very soon, and continue throughout the long pelagic migration. By the time the gull reaches it's wintering site, somewhere on the shore of south-west Africa in the Southern Hemisphere, a dark 'half-hood' of (northern) winter plumage will be assumed.

Notice the very worn / broken primary tips (p10 - p6) - when p10 is the longest and outermost wing feather. It is usual for most Sabines Gulls to have completely lost their white primary tips by this stage, for this reason. No wing moult / wing-feather replacement takes place until these gulls reach their wintering grounds.

This particular bird also lacks a black sub-terminal band to p5: a feature along with the prescence of a strongly-coloured, yellow-tipped bill, and white spots on the primary coverts that suggest this is most likely a (northern) 'second summer', third cycle, or older, adult.

OK, my methodology isn't professional here. I am not a scientist! This is just a few notes I have put together from books here on hand. With that in mind I may well end up 'modifying' some of this info. in the light of further reading, or comment readers may make.

Principal references:
Gulls of Europe, Asia & North America - 2004 - Olsen & Larsen
Gulls of The Americas - 2007 - Howell & Dunn
Gulls a Guide to Identification - 1986 - Grant

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