Migratory Bird Management
Alaska Region



What Are Seabirds?
Seabirds are birds that spend almost all their time on or near the sea. They are medium-sized to large birds; most are between the size of a robin and a crow.  They get all their food from the water. Some spend the winter at sea, several hundred miles from land. Seabirds come to land to raise the young birds each summer. They nest on protected cliffs or islands, often in dense groups called colonies.

Horned Puffins. USFWS. Click to EnlargeSeabirds have special adaptations that allow them to live at sea and get all their food there.  Some eat small fish or shrimp-like invertebrates called zooplankton, which they catch from the sea. Seabirds such as kittiwakes pick their prey from the water's surface. Others, such as auks and cormorants, dive for their prey and chase it underwater.

Who Are Alaska's Seabirds?
Many of Alaska's seabird species also nest across the Arctic, from Canada to Norway. But eight species nest only in Alaska and in nearby parts of Russia. These include the Red-faced Cormorant, the Red-legged Kittiwake, and Whiskered Auklet.

Common Murres. USFWS. Click to EnlargeAlaska's Vast Seabird Population
About 50 million seabirds nest on Alaska's coast each summer. This is 87% of all the seabirds in the United States. (Hawaii has the second most seabirds of any state.) Alaska's seabirds nest in more than 1600 seabird colonies around the coast.  Alaska has many seabirds for several reasons:
  • The state's coast is very long (30,000 miles);
  • The coast has many cliffs and islands that provide protected habitat for nesting seabirds; and
  • The seas near Alaska (the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and north Pacific Ocean) are very rich and produce large amounts of food for the birds.


Last Updated: September 18, 2008