Marine birds

Each winter, thousands of seabirds, seaducks, and waterfowl migrate from all directions to converge in the relatively calm and food-rich waters of Puget Sound. In summer, colonies of seabirds are busy attending their young. In spring and fall, the shorelines are full of shorebirds that stop to feed and rest during migration.

But Puget Sound is undergoing significant changes that impact birds. Some marine birds have suffered significant declines in Puget Sound, yet restoration projects are underway to improve ecosystem function. Professional scientists, citizen scientists, students are monitoring these changes and producing results.

Citizen science and monitoring in Puget Sound

The who, how and where of citizen science and monitoring in Puget Sound

Marine birds Vital Sign

The Puget Sound Partnership’s Vital Sign indicators for marine birds

Species lists

Natural history and other resources

Brandt's cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). Photo by Finley and Bohlman, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Marine birds

More than 70 bird species regularly utilize Puget Sound during some or all stages of their life histories, but only a portion of these are actively being investigated.


Breeding adult Rhinoceros Auklet flying low above the water. San Juan Islands, WA - July, 2016. Photo: Mick Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Nights in the lives of the rhinoceros auklets of Protection Island

More than 70 percent of the seabird population of Puget Sound nests on a single island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. That includes a massive colony of rhinoceros auklets that has drawn the interest of scientists and birders alike. Our writer Eric Wagner visited the island this summer and reports on a long-term study of the auklets that is revealing new information about the health of seabirds in the Salish Sea. 

Glaucous-winged gulls. Photo courtesy of James Hayward.

Daily and annual habitat use and habitat-to-habitat movement by Glaucous-winged Gulls at Protection Island, Washington

A 2017 paper in the journal Northwestern Naturalist looks at distribution patterns for Glaucous-winged Gulls across associated habitats in the Salish Sea.  

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2015 report cover

2015 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

Rhinoceros Auklet carrying sand lance. Photo by Peter Hodum.

Salish Sea snapshots: Plastics in fish may also affect seabirds

Sand lance in parts of British Columbia are ingesting small pieces of plastic that may be passed through the food web.

Peter Hodum, conservation biologist from the University of Puget Sound counts rhinoceros auklets and tufted puffins around Protection Island, WA (in the background). Photo: Scott Pearson, WDFW

Marine bird science in Puget Sound

Birds serve as useful indicators of ecosystem change and ecosystem health, biodiversity, condition of habitats, and climate change. Many people and organizations have their eyes on marine birds in Puget Sound.

The Tufted Puffin is among 125 species of concern found in the Salish Sea. Photo: Peter Hodum.

The growing number of species of concern in the Salish Sea suggests ecosystem decay is outpacing recovery

The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.6%, according to a report published in the proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C.