Types of Seabirds To Lookout For When Birdwatching

Types of Seabirds To Lookout For When Birdwatching

What picture comes to your mind when he thinks of a seabird? Maybe a lone bird flying over the ocean’s endless waves? While this picturization of sea birds is correct in some aspects, understanding the various types of seabirds can result in much more appreciation for these varied and unique birds. 

The good thing about understanding the various ocean birds is that it will help you as a birder. It is also helpful even if you are not a birder kind of person as the better you know, the more you admire these majestically gorgeous natural creations. 

In the article below, we will tell you about some of the most popular types of seabirds, which will make your coastal birding experience even more memorable. 

Types OF Seabirds:

The following are some popular types of ocean birds:

Albatross Bird

Albatross are pelagic birds with tremendous appeal. They are also one of the largest flying birds in the world. 

The extensive wingspan that is narrow and long gives the albatross a super lift during the flight. This allows them to fly easily for long hours without much effort. This wingspan off the albatross is why they are on the list of largest flying birds in the world. Unlike the various marine birds, the albatross bird also loves the land. They can walk easily on the land, for which we can say they are both land sea birds. 

These birds are part of the Diomedeidae family of birds, and there are 22 species of albatross birds around the world. 


The Auk is the common type of ocean birds in the cold waters and Northern seas. This is because they have compact bodies that are well adapted to the region’s climate. 

Puffins, guillemots, and murres are all different types of seabirds that come in the Auk category of birds. These birds are upright in posture while on the land, although they can be sometimes clumsy while walking. Most of the auks have white and black plumage, whereas some also have various colorful bills along with distinct markings. 

All of these auk sea birds are a part of the Alcidae family of birds and are a true beauty that you will love during your bird watching. 


The booby seabird name comes from their stupid and silly expressions. It is also the result of their gullible behavior history when it concerns the hungry sailors. 

These birds are tropical gannets that have bright feet and bills, which include the familiar blue-foot booby. The boobies are a type of heavy and large bird and don’t have an impressive flight. During the flight, most of the boobies might seem awkward due to their large size and heavyweight. You can see these sea birds often preaching on the cliffs, rocks, or buoys. Thus we can say they are also a type of shorebirds. 

All of the booby types of seabirds are a part of the Suliddae Family of birds. 


The frigate birds, also famous by the names of man-of-war birds and pirate bird, are stately fliers having hooked, long bills, boldly forked tails, and sharp-pointed wings. 

The soaring high flight along with the red pouch of the throat in the males are some distinctive features of this seabird. These types of seabirds are large in size and thus circle elegantly and slowly before they dive to get the fish. They also steal fish from other birds using their large, aggressive size. 

All the species of this pirate bird belong to the Fregatidae family of sea birds.


People often confuse the fulmars with gulls because they have short tails and chunky bodies build like gulls. However, the fulmar is different from the gulls and are petrel, actually.

These types of seabirds are opportunistic feeders and forage widely, which include visits to the land for carrion and trash. They have paramount bill structures and are tubenoses that help them in filtering the seawater. These birds, through these tubenoses, drink water and filter salt out from the seawater. There are only two species around the world of fulmar, and these are southern and northern fulmars. 

Both of the species of fulmar are a part of the Procellariidae family of sea birds. 


The gannets are a large seabird that has a chunky build and somewhat appears ungainly while on land. However, they are powerful divers and strong fliers. They also do fishing through diving. 

The white plumage, black wingtips, and heads that are buff-tinged are distinctive features. These three features are common among all the three species or types of these seabirds. The three species of the gannet are:

  • Cape Gannet
  • Australian Gannet
  • Northern Gannet

However, it is hard to distinguish between the three species as the distinctive features are similar in all. All three species of the gannet are a part of the Sulidae family of birds, and they are closely related to the boobies. 


The murres are a type of Auk and resemble the penguins closely. These types of seabirds have a light and dark countershaded plumage, which is also a distinctive feature of them. The murre sea birds can also swim under the water in pursuit of the fish. 

While on the land, the murres have a clumsy waddling gait along with an upright posture. There are only two species of the Murre around the world. These two are:

  • Thick-billed Murre
  • Common Murre

Both of these murre species are found in the northern oceans. They are a part of the Alcidae family of ocean birds along with other types of auks like guillemots and puffins. 


The penguins are flightless birds that you find in the southern oceans. They have specific features that include insulating plumage and fat, which help them survive in extreme cold. 

The penguins are also excellent swimmers and have special flippers in place of feathered wings. Despite the reputation of being a chilly bird, some species of penguins breed in the tropical regions. There are 18 species of penguins, and they all vary distinctly in size and other features. However, several species of penguins are also similar. 

All the species of penguins are in the Spheniscidae family of birds. 


Petrels are small types of seabirds. They have distinguishing tubular and elongated nostrils, and their wave-skimming low flight is also their distinctive feature. The petrels often stay very close to the surface of the water, and this creates an illusion like the birds are walking on water. 

Petrels, like many other types of seabirds, live for their entire lives at sea and come to land only for breeding. The bird named “Petrel” can be seen in several of the scientific bird families. However, some of these bird classifications are not accepted universally. 

The petrels sea birds are generally considered a part of the Procellariidae birds family. 


Puffins are types of large auks that have whimsical expressions along with colorful and broadbills. These birds, because of their whimsical expression, are called sea parrots or sea clowns. 

The puffin ocean birds are powerful swimmers and often go for breeding in isolated areas like islands or the north coast. These birds have an upright posture on the land while rapid wing beats with direct pat in the flight. There are three species of the puffins, and these are:

  • Tufted puffin
  • Horned puffin
  • Atlantic puffin

All of the puffin species are a part of the Alciddae family of birds. 


The shearwater types of seabirds a species of petals that specializes in gliding, low flight. These bird wingtips “shear the water” and brush the water while they are in flight and thus, their name “shearwaters.” 

There are a total of 30 shearwater species around the world. These are also one of the most common types of seabirds, which you can find all worldwide. However, they normally live far out to the ocean, away from land. In places where the feeding conditions for these birds are ideal, you can see them in large groups. You can generally see them in the areas where upwelling off the sea brings foods like plankton, squids, and fish close to the surface.

The shearwaters are a part of the Procellariidae birds family. 


The tropicbird, unlike the various types of seabirds, has white plumage primarily. They can be easily identified by the long streaming tail feathers. 

These tropicbirds are shallow plunge divers while hunting and have short legs. There are three species of the tropicbird, and these are:

  • White-tailed seabird
  • Red-billed tropicbird
  • Red-tailed tropicbird

These white-tailed seabirds and the other two species are so distinctive that they are the only members of the Phaethontidae birds family. 

Final Words

There are various types of seabirds that you can see worldwide, each having its own distinctive features like bill colors and flight patterns.

Knowing and understanding the popular types of these birds is also an amazing thing if you are a birder. It even helps if you are not a birder but want to understand these magnificent creations of nature. 

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Jatin Choudhary

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