Get to Know the Xeme Bird: Facts That Will Make You Squawk!

A seabird with a superhero cape, a forked tail, and a story of survival against the odds. Discover the secrets of the Xeme Bird.

Copy of page 1

Have you ever seen a seagull with a fancy black hood and tail resembling a superhero's cape? Kind of looks like the Batman of pigeons?

Well, that's the Xeme bird, also known as Sabine's Gull. This unique flyer isn't as common as its beach bum cousins, but it's definitely one to squawk about - as we'll find out today.

Whether sea birds are your thing, you're simply looking for some interesting facts about this often overlooked creature, or you were trying your hardest to think of any animals whose name begins with 'X,' and you've ended up here, this is the guide for you.

And boy, it's a good one. 

We'll soar through its incredible migratory journey that spans the planet, witness its acrobatic dives for fish, and even unravel its surprising connection to pirates. So, buckle up, birdies and landlubbers alike, and let's explore the wondrous world of the Xeme bird.

Xeme Bird Quick Facts

  • Scientific Name: Xema sabini
  • Global Population: 340,000
  • Lifespan: Around 18 years
  • Weight Range: 135 - 225 grams
  • Size Range: 27 - 33cm
  • Wingspan: 81 - 87 cm

An Introduction to the World of the Xeme: A Swift Sea Bird

Let's get a little nerdy.

The Xeme bird belongs to the big family of seabirds called' Laridae.' That's the same crew as those squawky gulls you see at the beach who try to steal your food.

But the Xeme is extra special; it's in its own little group known as a genus named Xema. Fancy, right? But that's just the scientific classification. Here's where things get interesting. 

Some call it Sabine's Gull, named after a super cool explorer named Sir Edward Sabine. And for the science whizzes out there, its official Latin name is Xema sabini.

Appearance: The Unique Winged Hunter

Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini) during the breeding season on the tundra in northern Alaska, United States.

Sabine's Gull on the tundra in northern Alaska, United States.

Easily enough, Xemes are super easy to spot - just look for the seagull with the dazzling black hood. If you look a little closer, you'll notice the other defining feature - the cool forked tail. 

That's the Xeme in its finest form.

And in true gull fashion, its wings are a masterpiece – grey on top, black on the edges, and white underneath. 

Similarly, baby Xemes rocks a different look. 

Instead of that awesome hood, they sport brown feathers all over. As they get older, they ditch the brown for the classic grey and black combo. 

Some things just get better with age, right?

Oh, and even more interestingly, male Xemes love trying to get girls during the summer breeding seasons. Usually, this means darker black hoods for showing off and attempting to get female attention.

The darker the hood, the better the Xeme!

The Habitat and Behavior of the Xeme

 Sabine's Gull in flight over the Atlantic Ocean off northern Spain.

Sabine's Gull in flight over the Atlantic Ocean off northern Spain.

Now, Xeme lives everywhere in the world. They can be found in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. 

Talk about globetrotting! 

During summer (breeding season), they set up their nests in the cold Arctic regions, chilling in places like Greenland and Alaska. 

But come winter, they say "see ya later" to the icy north and head for warmer waters across the ocean. It's like they've got their own built-in compass.

And on that note, these little adventurers are fearless in migrating thousands of miles for these warmer climates, but it depends on where the birds are based. 

For example, Greenland and Eastern Canadian Xeme will cross the Atlantic Ocean to reach the fringes of Europe or Southwest Africa, whereas Pacific birds may fly down to South American locations. 

This can easily reach distances of up to 5,000 miles or more, and swapping icy tundra for warm beaches - imagine that change in scenery and everything they see along the way.

In Flight: Behavioral Patterns of the Xeme

Adult Sabine's Gull at sea off the northern coast of Spain, in the Bay of Biscay. Showing upper wings.

Adult Sabine's Gull at sea off the northern coast of Spain, in the Bay of Biscay. Showing upper wings.

The Xeme bird's a master of the skies, gliding effortlessly, their forked tails slicing through the air.  

Now, they don't make the entire migration in one stop, as you may have heard some other birds doing, and they will stop, rest, and refuel.

When finding dinner, these guys have some pretty sweet moves. They swoop and dive into the water, snagging tasty fish and insects with expert timing. It's like watching a feathered acrobat.

So, they'll dive in, catch a fish, find a perch somewhere, rest up, eat their meal, and move on. However, they won't go it alone.

During their travels, they flock together in big, noisy groups. Imagine a bunch of Xemes swirling and calling above the waves or resting on some isolated, uninhabited island in the Pacific – it's quite the spectacle! 

Xeme Reproduction and Lifespan: The Cycle of Life: Mating and Breeding

When love is in the air (and it's springtime in the Arctic!), Xeme birds get busy building nests. 

They choose spots on the ground lined with soft grasses and feathers. As you can imagine, in such an icy wasteland, there are not too many building resources around that allow them to get elaborate, so simple is better.

Momma Xeme lays a few speckled eggs, and both parents take turns keeping them warm and cozy.

After a few short weeks, fluffy chicks hatch, ready to explore. 

The parents work hard, catching yummy, soft insects to feed their hungry babies. These little ones grow up fast; before you know it, they're taking their first flights at just 3 to 6 months old!

And as we covered above, baby Xemes are born with fluffy brown feathers. But as they grow, they slowly lose their baby fuzz and start to sport their fancy adult look. It takes about two years for a young Xeme to transform into a sleek, black-hooded adult fully.

During this time, they'll undergo several changes in their feathers until they reach the look we all know and love.

Conservation Status: A Species Observed

Sabine’s Gull standing inland

Xeme standing inland.

The good news is that the Xeme bird is currently listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List, with a thriving global population and not much to worry about in the way of numbers. 

The Least Concern rating means that the species is not in immediate danger. However, as with all animals, it's still essential to monitor its population and take steps to ensure its long-term survival.

Sadly, like many creatures, the Xeme faces threats like climate change, which messes with its Arctic home, and ocean pollution. Melting ice caps mean less room to breed, with more predators forced into their territories.

Moreover, warmer temperatures can mess up the Xeme's internal clock, forcing them to breed earlier and migrate sooner. For some bird species, their breeding windows can now be as short as 4-5 days due to global warming, which could affect Xeme in later years.

Thankfully, conservation groups are working to protect Xeme habitats and raise awareness about these birds' challenges.

Beyond the Facts: The Cultural and Ecological Importance of the Xeme

While the Xeme bird doesn't play a significant role in myths and legends, some Arctic communities see them as a symbol of the changing seasons. Their arrival and departure mark the shifts between icy winters and vibrant summers - a sign of the times.

However, the Xeme is a super important part of its environment.

As a predator, it helps keep populations of insects and small fish in check. But they're not at the top of the food chain. 

Xemes themselves are a tasty snack for larger birds and Arctic foxes. It's about that circle of life.

Their presence in the Arctic is also a sign of a healthy ecosystem, which is fantastic news for everyone.


So, there you have it! From its fancy feathered coat to its incredible journey across the globe, the Xeme bird is a truly remarkable creature. Remember, these fascinating birds are just one example of our planet's amazing diversity of life.  

Protecting these creatures and their habitats is important so future generations can enjoy their wonder.

 Now, the next time you spot a seabird with a forked tail and a black hood, you can say, "Hey, I know all about the awesome Xeme bird!"

Pop Quiz

1. True or False: Xeme birds can live for over 10 years.

Answer: True

2. What do Xeme birds eat?

A. Algae and seaweed

B. Fish and Insects

C. Small rodents

Answer: B

3. Where do Xeme birds build their nests?

A. In tall trees

B. On rocky cliffs along the coast

C. On the ground in the Arctic tundra

Answer: C

4. During the summer, male Xeme birds develop a darker...

A. Beak

B. Black Hood

C. Pair of wings

Answer: B

5. Which of these is NOT a name for the Xeme bird?

A. Fork-tailed gull

B. Sabine's gull

C. Tern of the tides

Answer: C