The Salish Sea Is Home To a Wide Variety of West Coast Marine Birds

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Habitat: on or near seacoasts, also near large lakes/rivers when fish are available
Around large trees for nesting in
Feeding: feeds on fish, carrion and occasionally waterfowl.
Primarily fish eaters
Resort to piracy of other eagles food
Reproduction/Nesting: eagles mate for life, and bonds are renewed each year with spectacular courtship
Large nests are added to yearly, more than one nest (1 km of each other)
High in trees, 3 – 45 m off the ground
Incubation by both sexes, ~ 35 days
7000 feathers.
The name Bald comes from the old English word for White.

Immature until adult, juvenile with first coat of feathers, Basic I, II, III, IV for the following years

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

General Info: seen later in the summer and fall
Will stand on rafts of large bull kelp
Habitat: consists of wetlands close to a safe place for a heronry (nest in colonies)
Close to 10 to 15 miles, which is the distance the heron will travel from heronry
Feeding: diverse diet consisting of many types of fish, frogs, salamanders, water snakes, large insects, mice and small rodents
Feed in both fresh and marine water
Use their long necks and pointed bills to spear fish and other prey
Breeding Ecology: nest in colonies with many pairs
Nest in high trees and they are made flat with many sticks (unstable in the first but more stable later)

Common Murre (Uria aalge)

General Info: similar shape to the loons, but different plumage
Habitat: marine birds that breed on land
Winter on British Columbia coast
Breed in colonies
Feeding: feed on small fish, especially around up-welling areas (cold water currents)
Breeding Ecology: nesting on rocky islands/sea cliffs
Inaccessible rock ledges; only enough room for one egg and one parent
Long pear shaped egg
Incubate egg for 28 – 35 days
Fledglings fledge by jumping off the cliff into the sea

Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata)

General Info: related to puffins, seen all summer long, and often seen with minkes and gulls feeding on herring balls
Habitat: spends most time in water, only on land to nest on the coastal islands
Feeding: on small fish i.e. herring
Nesting: nests in colonies, dig burrows
Lays one egg within grasses, twigs, and leaves inside the burrow
Food brought to young at night
Incubate ~ 31 days
Largest local nesting area is at Protection Island

Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

Length: 12.5 inches
Sexes similar
Immature similar to adult basic but bill is smaller and darker
Pelagic bird only coming ashore to breed
Medium to large alcid that dives for food from water surface
Entirely dark plumage,
Breeds from coastal Alaska to California, pelagic in winter
Extremely colorful bill-yellow at base and red at tip
White, triangular face patch
Yellow tufts extending from behind the eye
Similar species: The large bill separates adults from all other alcids except other puffins, both of which have white underparts. Juvenile Tufted Puffins are similar to Rhinoceros Auklets, but are rounder-headed with a slightly different bill shape.

Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)

General Info: Distinct plumage of jet black with white wing bands, and bright red feet
Spring and early summer
Habitat: Rocky shores during breeding season, and perch on exposed rocks
Winter far off-shore
Feeding: dive for small fish
Breeding Ecology: nest in colonies or in pairs
Nest occur in rock crevices, crevices, cliff faces, or excavate burrows
Incubation done by both parents, bwt 27 – 33 days, 1 or 2 eggs laid

Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata)

General Info: common in the fall and is the most common scoter on the Pacific coast
Habitat: nests on the tundra, therefore breeding is very short
Scoters winter on both Pacific and Atlantic coasts
Usually are far from shore
Feeding: eat mainly shellfish such as mussels
Also feed on aquatic vegetation
Breeding Ecology: nests are made in a scrape on the tundra that are lined in down (scrape is a shallow depression made by the bird)
Usually 5 – 9 eggs are laid

Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)

General Info: smallest of the three cormorants in the area
Almost completely black
Narrow heads and fly with straight necks
Seen individually or small numbers
Habitat: located in coastal waters and bays
Nest in colonies on rocky islands and sea cliffs
Feeding: mainly on fish through underwater pursuit
Occasionally on amphibians and crustaceans
Feed both inshore and offshore
Breeding Ecology: nest in colonies usually with other species
Rocky islands and cliffs, very narrow so land and take off facing the cliff
Usually 3 or 4 eggs, incubated by both for ~ 31 days
Flimsy nests of seaweed, feathers and debris

Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

General Info: larger in size than the Pelagic cormorant
Heads larger and neck not as straight
Unique behaviour of flying low over the water in lines
Bright blue throat pouch when in breeding plummage
Habitat: around coastal salt water
Feeding: feed by surface diving and underwater pursuit for fish
Will dive together and form a living net
Breeding Ecology: nests constructed of seaweed, other vegetation, and other items stolen from gull’s nests
Nests on coastal cliffs, with broad enough ledge to turn around and face the sea for take off
Lays 3 – 6 eggs

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocoraz auritus)

General Info: largest cormorant in the Strait
Also seen over fresh water
Will fly over land unlike other two cormorants mentioned
Large heads and fly with kinked necks, with longer tails than Brandt’s cormorant
Have orange throat patches year round
Habitat: require large, deep bodies of water that provide good fishing either marine or fresh water
Feeding: surface diving and underwater pursuit of fish
Breeding Ecology: only cormorant that breeds inland in the west
Nest in colonies
Nests consist of sticks, weather made on rocks, or in the trees
3-4 eggs laid, incubate ~ 24 – 29 days by both
Nests on ledges that they can turn on

Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani)

General Info: located along the rocky shorelines
Habitat: rocky shores and islands
Feeding: use their laterally compressed bills to open oysters
Also to pry of limpets from rocks
Breeding Ecology: mating pairs undergo long courtship flights prior to mating
Nests made in depressions on rocks, lined with stone bits and shells
Incubated ~ 26 – 30 days by both sexes

Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani)

General Info: located along the rocky shorelines
Habitat: rocky shores and islands
Feeding: use their laterally compressed bills to open oysters
Also to pry of limpets from rocks
Breeding Ecology: mating pairs undergo long courtship flights prior to mating
Nests made in depressions on rocks, lined with stone bits and shells
Incubated ~ 26 – 30 days by both sexes

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

General Info: flies along the tree line uttering its distinct rattling call
Females develop the breeding plumage
Habitat: needs to be near fish inhabited waters, either fresh or salt water
Feeding behaviours need habitat to contain elevated perching places i.e. trees or posts
Nesting habitats occur in steep earthy banks
Seen year round off of British Columbia
Feeding: on an elevated perch the kingfisher keeps an eye on small fishes, it dives or hovers over water before it dives and carries the fish away
Eats beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and frogs
Breeding Ecology: horizontal burrows, with 5 – 8 eggs laid on the floor of the burrow

California Gull (Larus californicus)

General Info: adults have round head shape, yellow-green legs, red orbital ring and dark iris
Red or black marks on yellow bill
Habitat: spends winters mostly on seacoasts
Breeding season on interior lakes/marshes
Feeding: eat insects and rodents, but also scavenge
Breeding Ecology: nests made of grass, dead weeds, and sticks
Nest in colonies on small islands in shallow inland lakes

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

General Info: most widely distributed large gull with the greatest variation
Orange-yellow orbital rings, pale irises, and a redish dot (gonydeal spot) on their lower mandible, and pink feet
Habitat: winter in coastal areas, with breeding habitat on tundra, wetlands, and coasts (nesting inlets or cliff nearby)
Feeding: beach scavengers and surface fishing birds
Also eat eggs of other seabirds
Breeding Ecology: nests consist of grass or seaweed
Nest in colonies

Bonaparte’s Gull  (Larus philadelphia)

General Info: small hooded gull that is tern-like in shape
Ocean feeders rather than coast feeding
Habitat: summer spent on lakes, while the winter is spent on the sea
Feeding: eat marine worms, insects, and crustaceans
Breeding Ecology: nests are constructed in the trees
Loose colonies

Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens)

General Info: variable gull in size, proportions, and plumage
Pinkish orbital ring, a generally dark iris, and the adult had a yellow bill with a bright red spot on the lower mandible
Habitat: spends time on beaches (rocky or sandy), in harbours, dumps, and open ocean
Found year round along the coast of British Columbia
Feeding: feeds mainly along the shore, may eat a variety of dead creatures
Feed on dying fish or squid
Also eat garbage
Breeding Ecology: nests are made up of grass or seaweeds on the depressions of remote islets or headlands
Are colonial with males defending territory

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