Migratory Seabirds: A Slideshow
All seabirds spend a significant part of their lives at sea, and many experience many parts of the world's ocean as they migrate around the globe every year. Some seabirds travel very far distances, like the Sooty Shearwater, which GPS trackers have followed for more than 40,000 miles, figure-eighting across the Pacific Ocean, within just a year. Some, like Audubon's shearwater, stay closer to home, circling a range of just a few hundred miles near their breeding grounds in search of food. See photos and read more about seabird migration.
Great Shearwater'Austral' or southern breeders, Great Shearwaters (Ardenna gravis) migrate from breeding islands far to the south in the Atlantic before traveling to the Northern Atlantic to feed. This trip is 6,000 miles each way and, if they're lucky, Great Shearwaters will complete this round trip every year for a 60-year lifetime.
Artie Copleman, Flickr
Wilson's Storm PetrelTiny Wilson's Storm-Petrels (Oceanites oceanicus) are not much bigger than sparrows, but are comfortable in wild oceanic conditions. To catch their small crustacean food, they gracefully dart and skim over the water, appearing to run on water by "pattering" their feet on the ocean surface while hovering with their wings.
Pomarine JaegerPomarine Jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus), also known as Pomarine Skuas, are predatory and pirate-like seabirds that will often steal prey from other birds. They spend their entire lives at sea except during the breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere summer, when they nest in the Arctic and hunt lemmings and other rodents on land.
Red PharalopesRed Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius) are sandpipers specialized in open water feeding: they spin rapidly to create small whirlpools, which draw up their plankton prey. Typical seabird sex roles are reversed in this species: females are brightly colored, lure mates, and compete for nest territory. After breeding, the females begin their migrations south, leaving males to care for the chicks.
Tony Morris, Flickr
Sooty ShearwaterSooty Shearwaters (Ardenna grisea) are the migration kings of the ocean. In the Atlantic, they can cover 12,000 miles in a year, traveling from their Antarctic breeding colonies up to their Arctic feeding grounds. In the Pacific, they travel even further: they chase summer's warmth in a figure-eight pattern from New Zealand to Japan to Alaska to California, covering more than 40,000 miles in a year.
Don Loarie, Flickr
One of the smallest shearwaters in the Atlantic, Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri) is about the size of an American Robin. They breed on small islands in the Carribbean, and commonly forage around the floating Sargassum endemic to the North Atlantic.
Black-Capped PetrelOnce common in the West Indies, the Black Capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata), which breeds in high Caribbean mountains, is now on the endangered species list. Unlike many seabirds, it is active only at night to avoid predation by gulls, hawks and other daytime predators. But that hasn't helped it fight against habitat loss and being eaten by introduced predators including feral cats, pigs, and rats.
Band-rumped Storm-petrelsBand-rumped Storm-petrels (Oceanodroma castro) are quite a bit larger and heavier than Wilson's Storm Petrels, but share their amazing sense of smell, which they use to find food that may be miles away. Recently, researchers found two populations of Band-rumped Storm-petrels breeding at the same sites, but during different parts of the year. These may be two separate species!
Brian Patteson, seabirding.com