Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rare gull, two actually ... adult and a juvenile.
Balmorhea Lake
Reeves County
2 October 2012
Sabine's Gull, adult (Xema sabini)

First found by someone else (M. Lockwood) on the afternoon of 22 September, there may only be about five records of an adult of this species ever in the state of Texas.

Sabine's Gulls spend the summer breeding season at the furthest northern reaches of the continent near tundra ponds.

When not on breeding grounds, Sabine's Gulls are pelagic.  In other words spend their time over open ocean.

Sabine's Gulls of all ages, including young birds, sport this striking black-white-gray patterning on the upper-side of the wings and back that we see in the photo above. 
If you see this conspicuous pattern, it is diagnostic for this species.  
Beautiful bird.

Though difficult to see clearly in this photograph, Sabine's Gulls sport a forked tail.

Feeding behavior of this species was particularly enjoyable to observe yesterday.  
There are scores of minnows near, and at, the surface of the water.  Quite noticeable through the first hours after sunrise.

The Sabine's Gulls, as well as several other avian species on the water, gorged themselves on these minnows.

The Sabine's have a feeding methodology of flying to one point of the lake and landing at rest.  
Then, opening/flashing/shading reflection from the Sun with the wings. They do this once, twice, or thrice...
... fairly rapidly. Then...
This feeding methodology is incredibly enjoyable to observe.  I found myself imaging this very foraging behavior on ponds way up North in the tundra spring and summer. **Again, refer to map above**

The gull would then fly off, though not too high nor far, toward another location that looked promising for minnows.

What a wonderful species to have the privilege to observe.  It would be great to have that opportunity anywhere.

It was very special to have been granted that chance here in the trans-Pecos of far-West Texas.


  1. Sweet! We had a couple of these in Tucson last month--very cool birds and cool even within the Gulls group too. They're like the Sandwich Terns of the Gull family.

    Nice action shots

  2. I may steal the fourth photo in the set to do an abstractish painting.