Trans-equatorial migration, staging sites and wintering area of Sabine’s Gulls Larus sabini in the Atlantic Ocean
The migrations and winter distributions of most seabirds, particularly small pelagic species, remain poorly understood despite their potential as indicators of marine ecosystem health. Here we report the use of miniature archival light loggers (geolocators) to track
the annual migration of Sabine’s Gull Larus sabini, a small (c. 200 g) Arctic-breeding larid. We describe their migratory routes and identify previously unknown staging sites in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as their main Atlantic wintering area in the southern hemisphere. Sabine’s Gulls breeding in northeast Greenland displayed an average annual
migration of almost 32 000 km (n = 6), with the longest return journey spanning close to 39 000 km (not including local movements at staging sites or within the wintering
area). On their southern migration, they spent an average of 45 days in the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Sea, off the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal. They all wintered in closeassociation with the cold waters of the Benguela Upwelling, spending an average of 152 days in that area. On their return north, Sabine’s Gulls staged off the west African coast (Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal), spending on average 19 days at this site. This leg of migration was particularly rapid, birds travelling an average of 813 km⁄ day, assisted by the prevailing winds. Sabine’s Gulls generally followed a similar path on their outbound and return migrations, and did not exhibit the broad figure-of-eight pattern (anti clockwise in the southern hemisphere and clockwise in the northern hemisphere) seen in
other trans-equatorial seabirds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Authors: Stenhouse, Iain J., Egevang, Carsten, Phillips, Richard A.