Status: Scarce passage migrant off the west and south coast from August to November. Rare in the Irish Sea in September and October.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as secure by BirdLife International.
Identification: Slightly smaller than Black-headed Gull. Adult summer Sabine's Gull have a black head , legs and bill, the latter having a yellow tip. The back is dark grey contrasting with the white underparts. In flight, a thick black band is noticeable on the primary feathers of the wing, with a broad white section on the inner primaries and secondaries. The rest of the wing is dark grey. Adult winter Sabine's Gulls are similar to adult summer, but have much less black on the head - usually restricted to a patch on the nape. Most adult Sabine's Gulls seen in Ireland tend to be in winter-plumage, though full summer-plumaged birds are infrequently seen. Juveniles appear quite different to adults, with head and neck being dusky brown. The back is also a neatly scaled grey-brown colour, while the tail has a broad black band at the tip. On the wing, the dark grey of the adult is replaced by brown.
Similar Species: Kittiwake
Call: Usually silent when seen in Ireland.
Diet: Sabine’s Gulls forage for small marine fish and plankton on the open ocean.
Breeding: Does not breed in Ireland. The majority of Sabine’s Gulls breed in the high Arctic of Greenland, Canada and Siberia.
Wintering: This species winters in the South Atlantic off South America and South Africa. In Ireland, most Sabine’s Gulls are observed moving south from their breeding grounds in autumn, with only a few returning birds seen in spring.
Where to See: Coastal headlands on the west coast such as the Bridges of Ross or Annagh Head are good sites to see this species. One Sabine's Gull has been wintering for several years in Cobh harbour.
Monitored by: BirdTrack.