Seabirds are birds that live along the coasts of seas and oceans. These birds often lay their eggs on rocky outcroppings, dive-hunt, and spend much of their life in the air. Some of the most amazing examples of seabirds are described below. 

Atlantic Puffin 

Habitat: Northern waters around Iceland, Norway, Newfoundland, and more.

Characteristics: A black head, grey cheeks, red and black beak. 

An Atlantic puffin with a colorful beak during mating season
An Atlantic puffin with a colorful beak during mating season

Credit: Charles J. Sharp

The Atlantic puffin is also known as the common puffin. It is part of the auk family and the only puffin native to the Atlantic ocean. It can be found around Québec, Iceland, Norway, Newfoundland, and more. But, it is most commonly seen around specific islands off the coast of Iceland. The bird mainly feeds on small fish as it swims along the surface, sometimes driving and using its wings to propel itself.

Booby 

Habitat: Southern California to northern Peru

Length: 4 to 5 feet

Characteristics: A long bill, narrow angular wings. 

A brown booby with yellow feet
A brown booby with yellow feet

Credit: Danilo da Castro

There are seven species of booby, all belonging to the Sulidae family. They are closely related to gannets. They are named for their behavior and facial expressions. It’s thought that the name comes from the Spanish slang word “bobo,” meaning “stupid.” (They have a history of being easy to capture.) These birds are also known for their ability to dive from great heights into the sea, where they scoop up targeted prey. They lay chalky blue eggs on the ground or in tree nests. Their habitat ranges from southern California to northern Peru.

Brown Pelican

Habitat: In colonies along the southern and western sea coasts

Length: 3.3-4.5 feet

Characteristics: A white head, dark brown neck, pink skin around eyes when breeding.

 A juvenile brown pelican
A juvenile brown pelican

Credit: Frank Schulenburg

The brown pelican is a very recognizable seabird. They are known for their ability to fly as high as sixty feet above the water’s surface and plunge into the ocean to scoop fish up into their throat pouches. These pouches can hold as much as three gallons of water. These birds mainly feed on fish but are also known to eat eggs and crustaceans. The brown pelican is the national bird of several different islands, including Saint Martin, Barbados, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Auk 

Habitat: North Atlantic, off the coast of Canada and the US

Length: 5.9 to 18 inches

Characteristics: They are small, black and white, better at swimming and flying than walking.

Painting of various auk species by Archibald Thorburn
Painting of various auk species by Archibald Thorburn

The auk is in the Alcidae family that includes many of the other birds on this list. All living auk species can fly and are also well-known for their swimming abilities. But, they are notoriously less skilled at walking on land. They are small, black and white birds that share some visual similarities with penguins. One extinct species, the great auk, is one of the most famous examples of an extinct, over-hunted seabird.

Frigatebird 

Habitat: Tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide

Length: nearly 8 feet

Characteristics: Known for their black plumage, forked tails, and a red gulag pouch that they can inflate. 

A male frigatebird
A male frigatebird

Credit: Clark Anderson

Frigatebirds are a family of seabirds found in tropical and subtropical oceans. They are best known for their large, red gular pouch that they inflate when breeding to attract females. With wings extended, they can reach up to 7.5 feet. They are also known for their ability to fly for weeks on strong wind currents. 

Laysan Albatross 

Habitat: North Pacific 

Length: around 32 inches

Characteristics: Known for their black and white coloring (dark on their upperparts and light on their underside) and pink bills with a black tip.

A laysan albatross flying
A laysan albatross flying

Credit: Dick Daniels

The Laysan albatross is a large seabird that lives in the North Pacific. It shares many visual similarities with seagulls. These birds are named for one of their main breeding colonies in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There are around sixteen nesting sites around the North Pacific. There are also populations near Japan and around islands off the coast of Mexico.

Double-crested Cormorant 

Habitat: across North America

Length: Between thirty-five inches and forty-eight inches

Characteristics: Black coloring with orange around the bill

A double-crested cormorant spreading its wings
A double-crested cormorant spreading its wings

Credit: Mdf

The double-crested cormorant is a water bird that nests near rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. It can be found across North America, ranging from Alaska to Florida. The bird is known for swimming low in the water with only its head and neck visible. Cormorants dive to prey on fish and often prove to be pests for aquaculturists. 

Fulmar 

Habitat: coasts of Britain and France

Length: seventeen to forty-seven inches

Characteristics: They are known for their stiff wings, gull-like coloring, and tubenoses. 

A fulmar spreading its wings
A fulmar spreading its wings

Credit: Andrew Dunn

The fulmar is a species of seabird that resembles a gull but is different in form and habit. They live on cliffs where they lay one to two eggs. Unlike most seabirds, fulmars can live for up to forty years. They prey on small fish, shrimp, worms, and carrion. These birds have historically been hunted for food in their native habitat. 

Gannet 

Habitat: North Atlantic, southern Australia, New Zealand

Length: 36 to 43 inches

Characteristics: Known for their sharp bills, slender wings, and black wingtips.

A gannet showing its yellow-ish head and black-tipped wings
A gannet showing its yellow-ish head and black-tipped wings

Credit: Mmo iwdg

The gannet is closely related to the booby. They are large birds that, like auks, have trouble walking on land. They are far more graceful in the air and underwater when hunting. Some gannets have yellow-ish heads, making them easy to distinguish from other seabirds. 

Murre 

Habitat: The shores along the coasts of Canada, Ireland, Norway, Greenland, New England, and more.

Length: 15 to 18 inches

Characteristics: Black and white coloring, pointed bill, small dark tail

Adult brindled murre
Adult brindled murre

Credit: Charles J. Sharp

The murre is a type of auk that shares some characteristics with a penguin. They are usually black and white in color and demonstrate countershading. Meaning that their undersides are lighter than their backs, allowing them to blend in with the dark/light of the ocean’s depth/surface. There are two species of murre—the common and thick-billed murre. They are found in the northern hemisphere along rocky shores. 

FAQs 

What are the names of some seabirds?

Some seabirds include pelicans, cormorants, boobies, gannets, puffins, petrels, gulls, turns, jaegers, murres, and frigatebirds. 

Which is the most common seabird?

Gulls are the most common seabirds. They are often found around human habitats and are fearless when hunting. They’re often spotted feeding on the trash left behind by beachgoers. 

Is a penguin a bird?

Yes, penguins are birds despite the fact that they can’t fly. They are skilled swimmers, like other seabirds, but can only waddle around on land. 

What do seabirds eat?

Seabirds eat small fish, worms, crustaceans, other birds’ eggs, carrion, etc. Some seabirds feed off of food sources that humans leave behind. Many are dive-fishers, meaning they can spot prey and drive from great heights into the ocean. 

Where do seabirds live? 

Seabirds live around the coasts of oceans. Some species also live along rivers and lakes. The vast majority lay their eggs on rocky outcroppings and spend their lives dive-hunting.