New England Seabirds
Some authors Grant (14) and Harrison (2) place this gull in the genus Larus so Larus sabini.
A Gull That Thinks It Is A Tern
Unlike most gulls which are coastal, Sabine's Gull is truly pelagic when not breeding. It is highly migratory (breeds in the arctic, vacations below the equator) unlike most other gulls which disperse only within the region. In both of these characteristics it is more like a tern.
Most gulls have a complete molt in the fall and a partial molt in the spring. Sabines is just the opposite having a complete molt in spring before it starts the migration north and a partial molt in fall after arrival in the wintering waters off Africa and South America.
Like Ross' Gull, Sabines breeds on arctic ponds in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. Bent (15) contains a complete description of the nest and eggs written by an egg collector in 1887. The small gull was able to defend its nest against jaegers if not against the egg collectors.
Unlike Ross' which winters in the arctic as well, Sabine's Gull migrates south below the equator where it is pelagic in winter.
Siberian and Alaskan birds winter off the coast of Columbia and Peru. They disburse east across the Pacific Ocean passing down the west coast of the US, where they are often seen on offshore trips.
Canandian and Greenland birds disperse east passing along the coast of Europe to winter off the coast of Africa. After a strong westerly wind they are seen on European seawatches usually in September and October.
Only a few birds show up on the east coast making it a sought after pelagic in our waters.
When To See
Sabine's Gull is much easier to see on west coast pelagic trips. It can be seen on the east coast trips in late August through September on Stellwagen Bank and Jeffrey's Ledge.
Also seen on offshore trips to continental shelf edge in early fall. Even after a poor birding summer on Stellwagen Bank, Sabine's Gull can enliven a pelagic trip.