Seabirds require two completely different habitats: land to breed on and open ocean to find food. We focus on the rarest species and address threats that have the greatest potential for conservation gains.

Brown Rat, Erni/Shutterstock

Invasives on Land

On vulnerable nesting islands, invasive species often abound, and many seabirds lack defenses against these unknown predators. Feral cats, rodents, and pigs take eggs and kill both chicks and adults.

Mortality of adult birds is especially harmful because seabird species generally mature late and reproduce slowly.

Other invasive animals—such as grazing goats, sheep, deer, and cattle—trample nesting habitat and overgraze vegetation essential to underground nesting burrows.

Oiled Brown Pelican, Governor Jindal’s Office

Threats at Sea

Wide-ranging birds, seabirds cross ocean basins and multiple political boundaries, requiring international solutions for their protection. Oil spills and pollution such as plastics, often ingested by the birds, are two of the potentially life-threatening threats they face at sea.

Fisheries present other risks. For example, the Pink-footed Shearwater migrates from Chile to the west coast of North America, encountering extensive nets and lines that accidentally snare birds. Critically endangered Waved Albatross are frequently killed on the hooks of South America’s coastal fisheries.

Fisheries also compete with seabirds for small forage fish—anchovies, sardines, herring, and squid—that are a staple for Tufted Puffins and other diving birds.

Read more.

Laysan Albatross with trash, Steven Sigel

Marine Trash

Plastic trash in the world’s oceans is a mounting concern. Debris, particularly discarded fishing gear, plastic bags, and six-pack rings can lead to entanglement of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds.

Albatrosses like Waved and Laysan Albatross are further threatened when they mistake plastic items for food and ingest them, usually to regurgitate and feed to their young.

This can lead to blockages or ulcerations in the chicks’ digestive tracts that may ultimately result in death through starvation or dehydration.

Laysan Albatross chick with droopwing, Bradford Keitt

Lead Paint

The world’s largest colony of Laysan Albatross is on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, where hundreds of thousands of birds come each year to nest and raise young.

Unfortunately, curious albatross chick ingest lead-based paint chips, peeling from historic buildings. The chicks soon develop a condition known as droop-wing, which makes them unable to lift their developing wings off the ground. An estimated 10,000 chicks died this way each year until ABC pressed for remediation at Midway.

Today U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is actively removing contaminated buildings and soil.

Hawaiian wind farm, Tom Walsh

Seabirds & Structures

Poorly sited wind energy facilities and power lines now obstruct the traditional flyways of many seabirds. Sadly, collisions and seabird mortality often result.

Nocturnal seabirds are often attracted to and collide with lighted structures.

Two rare Hawaiian seabirds, Newell’s Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel, have annual “fall-outs” of fledgling chicks, which hit these structures or become disoriented by lights.

After landing on the ground, they are often run over by cars or become easy prey for predators. Hundreds of Newell’s Shearwaters are grounded by light-attraction and collisions in Hawaiʻi.