Sabine's Gull
(Xema sabini)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The small and graceful Sabine’s Gull breeds across much of the Canadian Arctic, but is most abundant in the eastern Arctic. The species is unique in that it migrates across the equator to winter in two different oceans: off the coast of Peru in the Pacific, and off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia in the Atlantic. Individual birds appear to be highly faithful to their wintering sites, returning to the same area each year (Davis et al. 2016). Repeated surveys of Nunavut’s Foxe Basin, a stronghold of the population, have confirmed that the species remains abundant there. However, data are insufficient for an assessment of range-wide trends in population abundance. The species’ population status in Canada relative to about 1970 remains unknown.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada25,000 - 50,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The species appears to be less abundant than once believed in the Western Canadian Arctic, and it is unclear whether this reflects historic declines or incorrect information about their former abundance (Day et al. 2001). An improved understanding of the Canadian population's abundance and distribution is needed in order to better assess the threats these birds face across their range.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type