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Sabine's Gull

Xema sabini


Dry Tortugas NP (Please consider using more specific locations)
Monroe, Florida, United States
Search this location, Illustrated Checklist
Latitude and Longitude 24.6344, -82.8699 Map



Observation details

Trip. Suzie. Mom. Juvenile. In very bad shape. Bad foot. Terrible feathers. HISTORICAL NOTES ARE BEING ADDED TO THIS SIGHTING ON 4/14/2018: My Notes from 7/31/2013 "The guide at the time identified the bird as a Kittiwake. He also stated that Kittiwake would be a first record for the Tortugas (I checked and kittiwake isn't on the checklist for the Tortugas) It was so terribly ratty that I spent a lot of time studying it and taking photos so I could research it later. I discussed the bird at length (while we were looking at it) with the guide and asked him why it couldn't be a juvenile Sabine's Gull (which is on the Tortugas checklist). His only answer over and over was that it has a "black collar". That really didn't help me learn anything. I know that Kittiwakes have a black collar, but I wanted to learn a lot more about why this bird is what it is (or isn't what it isn't) ! It was a very interesting (although sad looking) bird. My thoughts on the bird for a juvenile Sabine's Gull at the time were: 1. Pink legs ( I didn't know that Kittiwakes don't always have black legs. Good to know, thank you !) 2. The black neck collar was rather wider than I thought it should be for a kittiwake. It seemed to go up the back of the head a fair ways. I thought that this might be a molt of a juv. Sabine's that the top of the head had already changed to adult white, but the neck was still retaining some of the juv. feathers, giving it a (wide) collar & dark back of the head similar to a kittiwake, but more extensive. 3. The upper wing pattern showed the white triangle in the middle of the wing towards the trailing edge as I would expect of a Sabine's and not a kittiwake. 4. The bird had a tan/brownish mantle on the portion of the wings closest to the body, then the white triangle, then the gray mantle towards the primaries. I thought this seemed good for a Sabine's also. 5. I felt at the time that something wasn't right for Kittiwake with regards to the black "M" on the wing. It seemed to me that the outer part of the wing appeared to have the black M, but the inner part of the wing had a brown tone that gave the illusion of an M, but that the black M didn't actually exist on the inner part of the wing. Did that make any sense? When I look at the pictures now, I don't see any black on the inner part of the wing or along the white part of the wing." Upon reviewing my photos and studying some more, I would add the following thoughts: 1. The bird shows five black primaries. As I have looked at juv. Sabine's Gulls photos, they seem to show five black primaries, where as kittiwakes show 3-4. With the gap in my knowledge, I don't know if this is a good indication of anything, but it is something I am curious to learn about. 2. The parrtern around the eye is interesting in my photos. The bird shows a light eye ring with a darker spot just at the forward bottom of the eye. I have looked at a number of Sabine's Gulls photos and have seen this feature in several of them. I am wondering if it is the last part of the head to finish molting sometimes and leaves this pattern. ON AUGUST 1, 2013, I SENT SOME EMAILS TO PEOPLE THAT ARE MORE EXPERIENCED WITH PELAGIC GULLS/KITTIWAKES THAN I: On 8/2/2013, I received the following response from Brian Patteson, ""Jason, It appears to be a Sabine's Gull in a seldom seen plumage- less than a year old. Nice."

Technical Information

Lens model
EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
Focal length
300 mm
Shutter speed
1/640 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
1475 x 1074

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