New England Seabirds
What is a Seabird?
Seabirds that belong to diverse taxonomic groups show similar
characteristics and it is these similarities that we discuss
Penguins are seabirds who have given up the ability to fly in favor of swimming and diving to great depths. With the exception of the Galapagos Penguin they live and breed in the southern hemisphere although it is not true that they only live where it is very cold. Penguins do not associate with Polar Bears which are confined to the far north except in beer commercials.
Alcids are seabirds who both fly and swim with their wings. Alcids are now confined to the northern hemisphere. The extinct Great Auk was flightless.
Tubenoses or Petrels - Order Procellariformes
This group is distinguished by having their nostils enclosed in tubes. Four families of seabirds make up the order:
The Pelecaniformes include: Gannets, Pelicans, Boobies, tropicbirds, cormorant, and frigatebirds. Some of these birds are of great interest to pelagic birders while others are more commonly viewed and studied from land.
Skuas and Jaegers Family Laridae
In the same family as the gulls and terns, the skuas and jaegers are colonial breeders and are fiercely territorial. The northern hemisphere jaegers breed on the arctic tundra and lay two eggs on the ground.
Gulls, Terns Family Laridae
Gulls and terns are also considered seabirds although many gulls have been lured inland and some live out their lives on large bodies of fresh water like the Great Lakes. This web page will include two gulls of special interest to pelagic birders and two terns usually seen on pelagic trips.
Ducks, Loons, Grebes
Some of the ducks commonly called seaducks must also be mentioned and some authors include loons and grebes. Another term waterbirds is sometimes used to include the ducks, loons and grebes which are included in seawatch programs.
Page author: Emmalee Tarry