All of Earth’s oceans are home to seabirds—birds that spend most of their lives on water, only coming on land to lay eggs and raise chicks. They include puffins, albatrosses, terns, gannets, murres, and petrels.
While seabirds come in different sizes and shapes, they all are especially equipped for oceanic life. Many have wings and feet that also work as fins and paddles. Most have thick, waterproof feathers and a special gland for removing salt from their food and water. Some have bones that hold up to the pressure of deep-water dives and beaks that can snag the slipperiest of fish.
Many seabirds migrate over thousands of miles between ocean areas rich with food and their nesting colonies on land. Seabirds—some 75 million of them—love Alaska’s fish-filled waters and plentiful coastal nesting areas. Almost 90% of all the seabirds that breed in the U.S. do so in Alaska. The cliffy coasts and rocky islands off Maine and eastern Canada are also a summertime destination for many seabirds.
Long ago, the Atlantic puffins that once nested on Eastern Egg Rock, an island off the coast of Maine, had been hunted out. But in the 1970s, Project Puffin began a unique experiment to bring these colorful seabirds back. It started by moving puffin chicks from Newfoundland, Canada, to Eastern Egg Rock. More than 40 years later, Eastern Egg Rock is once again home to a thriving nesting colony of Atlantic puffins.
Seabirds are the most threatened group of birds on Earth. As they travel the world’s seas, they crisscross the borders and boundaries of nations. That’s why protecting them is an international effort.
Photos: (top) Sherrie York, (all others) Thinkstock