A “seabird” comprises roughly 325 species distributed throughout 6 taxonomic orders. They inhabit virtually every corner of the earth and exhibit a wide variety of adaptations for coping with their environment.
The albatross with their astounding wingspans undergo some of the longest migrations known in the animal kingdom. Penguins have adopted a torpedo-shaped body and some of the densest feathers of any bird for spending time underwater withstanding the coldest extremes on the planet.
Like other groups, seabirds are threatened with things like climate change, pollution, bycatch, and habitat degradation to name a few.
Seabirds, otherwise known as marine birds, are birds which derive the vast majority of their food items from the oceans. While albatrosses and petrels (the famed tubenoses) dominate the pelagic (open ocean) realms of the globe, seabirds are a very taxonomically diverse group that exhibits striking evolutionary adaptations.
Seabird Facts & Tidbits
- All seabirds have pronounced salt glands near the base of their bills which are much more efficient at pumping salt concentrations out of the bloodstream than the kidneys.
- Seabirds grow more slowly than land birds. This allows the parents to complete their long forays for food (e.g. some albatrosses return to feed the single chick only once per week).
- Albatrosses can easily circumnavigate the Southern Oceans in near-constant gale force winds.
- Short-tailed Shearwaters and Arctic Terns annually make trans-equatorial migrations involving tens of thousands of kilometers.
- Penguins and auks have adapted almost scale-like feathers and flipper-like wings sacrificing sustainable, efficient flight in order to pursue the abundant prey items occurring at depths.
Seabirds are widely distributed around the globe from pole to pole. Some are pelagic (open ocean) only coming to land to breed and nest, while others occupy coastlines and nearshore habitats year round.
Species that are critically or highly endangered are the Short-tailed, Tristan’s, Chatham Island, and Amsterdam Island Albatrosses which teeter on the brink along with the Magenta, Bermuda, and Zino Petrels.
Learn more about threats to birds here.