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For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science
360-902-2515
wildthing@dfw.wa.gov

Fish Science
360-902-2700
fishpgm@dfw.wa.gov

Habitat Science
360-902-2534
habitatprogram@dfw.wa.gov

 

Seabird Ecology

  Pelican
   

Seabirds also known as "marine birds" have several characteristics that make them uniquely adapted to marine life including extremely dense waterproof feathers, layers of fat to insulate against cold waters, and a system to remove and excrete salt (desalinization system). Many seabirds are long-lived (some > 50 years), have low reproductive rates, and delay sexual maturity until they are 5-10 years of age. These life history characteristics make most seabirds very slow to recover from population declines due to anthropogenic and/or natural changes in the environment.

In Washington, seabirds consist of loons, grebes, albatrosses, shearwaters, storm-petrels, pelicans, Jaegers, gulls and terns, and alcids (auklets, murres and puffins). Marine adapted ducks and geese like the harlequin and long-tailed ducks, brandt and our three scoter species are often considered seabirds.

Seabirds and sea-ducks rely almost entirely on marine habitats for food resources. Some dive and pursue fish, others glean food off the ocean surface while some eat bivalves and other invertebrates off the ocean floor.

 
Double-crested Cormorants
Photo by Peter Hodum
 

Double-crested Cormorants on nests, Protection Island

In Washington, Seabirds are largely confined the outer coast and large estuaries (Columbia River, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay), the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Because of growing concern about declining seabird populations in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Strait of Georgia, biologist and researchers in Washington and Canada are focused on examining population trends and mechanisms for these trends in this ecosystem also known as the Salish Sea.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's seabird research is focused on assessing the status and trends of both common and rare species of seabirds, identifying potential mechanisms for decline, and assessing the health of Puget Sound.

Projects