Xeme (Sabine’s Gull)

Xema Sabini

Last updated: November 15, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

They follow after seals and whales to eat their scraps.

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Charadriiformes
Family
Laridae
Genus
Xema
Scientific Name
Xema Sabini

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Conservation Status

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Locations

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Locations

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Facts

Prey
fish, crustaceans, insects, and offal
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
They follow after seals and whales to eat their scraps.
Estimated Population Size
2,000 to 2.1 million
Biggest Threat
Climate change, habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
long, pointed tri-colored wings
Distinctive Feature
Small heads, slender bill
Wingspan
32 to 34 inches
Incubation Period
23 to 25 days
Age Of Fledgling
one day
Habitat
Arctic tundra, marshy tundra near the coast
Predators
Peregrine falcons
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Sabine's gull
Number Of Species
4
Location
North America, Europe
Average Clutch Size
2
Nesting Location
On the ground on islands or the edges of ponds
Age of Molting
2 years
Migratory
1

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
Up to 8 years
Weight
4 to 7 ounces
Length
10 to 13 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
2 years

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

View all of the Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) images!



“They live in the high Arctic, and sightings are prized for birders.”

Summary

The Xeme (Sabine’s gull) is a small gull found in North America and Europe. It lives in the Arctic during the breeding season, migrates over oceans, and spends winters in more tropical waters. You often find this bird flying low over the sea and wading in shallow ponds and tidal flats, foraging for insects and fish. This social species mate for life and spends much of the year in flocks. Discover everything there is to know about the Xeme, including where to find it, what it eats, and how it behaves.

5 Amazing Xeme Facts

  • Xeme lives most of the year on Arctic tundra, where they breed and place their nests.
  • They follow after seals and whales to eat their scraps.
  • Groups occasionally gather to make displays and produce their squeaky high-pitched calls.
  • Their young are born in advanced states and can feed themselves right after hatching.
  • They sometimes rob other birds’ nests to eat their young.

Where to Find Xeme

The Xeme lives in North America and Europe in over 25 countries, including Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Russia, and Germany. They spend their springs and summers in the high arctic areas, migrate across oceans, and winter in warmer seas near coastlines. They inhabit the Arctic tundra during the breeding season and spend summers in marshy tundra near the coast, especially in areas with many ponds and tidal flats. This bird spends migration and winter mostly at sea, no more than a few miles offshore.

6,513 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Xeme Nest

Sabine’s gulls breed on tundra and place their nests on the edges of ponds, islands in ponds, or marshy shore areas. They use shallow depressions in vegetation or gravel and occasionally line the insides with grass, algae, and feathers.

Scientific Name

The Xeme, or Sabine’s gull (Xema Sabini), belongs to the Laridae family, which includes seabirds like gulls, terns, and skimmers. It is the only species in the Xema genus and has four recognized subspecies.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Sabine's Gull
The global Sabine’s gull population is estimated to number 2,000 to 2.1 million mature individuals.

Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

Xeme is a small gull, measuring 10 to 13 inches long and weighing four to seven ounces, with a 32 to 34-inch wingspan. They have a small head, a slender bill, and long, pointed wings. Breeding adults are white with gray heads bordered in black. Their wings are three colors: gray wing coverts, black primary flight feathers, and white secondaries. They also have red eyering and black beaks with yellow tips. Nonbreeding adults have white speckles on their heads, and juveniles are brown with pale feathers edges, and all black bills.

The Sabine’s gull is relatively social, forming long-term mates and staying in flocks or groups during periods in the winter and spring. They forage around coastlines, and groups sometimes gather to display and make their squeaky high-pitched calls. Their flight is buoyant and similar to a tern. They produce deep wing beats as they fly low over the sea. 

Migration Pattern and Timing

Xeme are short to long-distance migrants. They breed in high arctic regions, migrate over oceans, and winter in tropical waters. In North America, they spend springs and summers in the extreme northern areas of Canada and Greenland. They migrate over the Pacific Ocean, staying near the coastline, and winter off the coast of Mexico and Central America.

Diet

Sabine’s gulls are carnivores who forage on the surface of the water.

What Does Xeme Eat?

They eat fish, crustaceans, insects, and offal (fishing discards. During the summer, they mainly eat aquatic insects, larvae, crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, and marine worms. They may even eat eggs and nestlings from other birds and steal fish from Arctic terns. They walk along the edges or swim in freshwater pools, picking insects off the water and vegetation. This bird also hunts prey by shuffling its feet on the muddy bottom or spinning in circles to bring food near the surface. We don’t know much about their winter diet, except that they are more likely to scavenge. They will feed on small marine creatures that wash up on the shore and gather around seals and whales to eat their scraps.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists Sabine’s gull (Xeme) as LC or “least concern.” Due to its significant range and large, increasing population, this species does not meet the thresholds for “threatened” status. Their specific threats have yet to be evaluated, but they may suffer the effects of climate change, like habitat change and ecosystem shifts. They are also hunted in Russia, including egg harvesting.

What Eats Xeme?

The Xeme has very few natural predators. Their most significant threat in the wild is birds of prey, such as peregrine falcons. But their eggs and young are often well-concealed and camouflaged, preventing nest predation. However, if predators approach their nesting areas, adults will fake an injury, leading the creature away from their young. They may also dive-bomb intruders.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Sabine’s gulls form long-term monogamous pair bonds and return to the same nesting site every year with their mate. During courtship, males feed females, give long calls, and bow. Females will rub their heads and bodies against the male’s breast when they are ready to mate. Females lay one to three, an average of two, olive-colored eggs with dark spots. Both sexes take turns incubating the eggs for 23 to 25 days. Their young are born in an advanced state and can feed themselves shortly after hatching. They fledge the nest around one day old. The young become sexually mature and molt into their adult plumage around two years old. This species lives an average of six years but can live up to eight. 

Population

The global Sabine’s gull population is estimated to number 2,000 to 2.1 million mature individuals. The European breeding population is between 2,000 and 2,100 mature individuals and appears to be increasing. This species is not experiencing any extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in its numbers.

Similar Animals:

View all 8 animals that start with X

About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do xeme live?

The Xeme lives in North America and Europe in over 25 countries, including Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Russia, and Germany.

How big is the Sabine's gull?

It is a small gull, measuring 10 to 13 inches long and weighing four to seven ounces, with a 32 to 34-inch wingspan.

Are xeme social birds?

 They are relatively social, forming long-term mates and staying in flocks or groups during periods in the winter and spring.

Do xeme migrate?

Xeme are short to long-distance migrants. They breed in high arctic regions, migrate over oceans, and winter in tropical waters.

What does the Sabine's gull eat?

They eat fish, crustaceans, insects, and offal (fishing discards. During the summer, they mainly eat aquatic insects, larvae, crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, and marine worms.

What threatens the Sabine's gull?

Their specific threats have yet to be evaluated, but they may suffer the effects of climate change, like habitat change and ecosystem shifts. They are also hunted in Russia, including egg harvesting.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Red List / BirdLife International , Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22694479/166280460
  2. JSTOR / Arctic Vol. 34, No. 2 / Sven Blomqvist and Magnus Elander, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40509127
  3. Oxford Academic, The Condor, Volume 103, Issue 1 / Iain J. Stenhouse, H. Grant Gilchrist, William A. Montevecchi, Available here: https://academic.oup.com/condor/article/103/1/98/5563116

Newly Added Animals

A Stoplight Loosejaw
Stoplight Loosejaw

Emit red light to hunt via bioluminescent photophores

A Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler

The Kentucky Warbler appears to wear bright yellow cat-eye glasses!

A Allosaurus
Allosaurus

Allosaurus is the official state fossil of Utah because of the abundant number of fossils found in the state.

Most Recently Updated Animals

A German Longhaired Pointer
German Longhaired Pointer

German Longhaired Pointers are excellent hunters-tracking, pointing, and retrieving game over land and water. They can jump up six feet high and make wonderful emotional support dogs!

A Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak

They are friendly and non-aggressive to those in their species.