An overview of the approximately 300 bird species that live on the open ocean.

June 9, 2023

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This episode is an overview of seabirds. Some might call them Oceanic birds or Marine Birds.

How do we define what is or isn’t a sea bird?

Well, it depends on who you ask. There’s no one definition, since “seabird” is an informal term, rather than a scientific one. It doesn’t correspond to a single taxonomic category, or to a single evolutionary lineage.

Here’s what the authors of the book Oceanic Birds of the World have to say about it:

“To our mind, true seabirds are birds of the ocean, birds you generally go on a boat to see. Yes, some of these species can be seen from shore (and almost all come  ashore somewhere to breed), but the birds we include here are species that make  their living from the ocean for all or most of the year, and often not from coastal waters.”

Oceanic Birds of the World is a field guide, and it includes about 270 species. Other authorities might say there are between 300 and 350 seabird species.

In this episode, we'll talk about the various types of seabirds and what taxonomic groups they belong to.

We'll look at how seabirds face the challenges of live on the ocean, how and where they breed, and how they find food.

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Links of Interest

Research Citations


Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Photo by tonymills/Adobe.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus). Photo by JJ Harrison/Wikimedia.
Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris). Photo by Danita Delimont/Adobe.
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea).
Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor). Photo by Terence Mendoza/Adobe.
The world's largest Northern Gannet colony on Bass Rock, Scotland.
Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) at breeding colony on the Bempton Cliffs in the UK.


  • Laysan Albatross sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC124323)

This work by Ivan Phillipsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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