About Marine Birds
More than 100 species of marine birds are found in Puget Sound either year-round or seasonally. Many marine birds are at or near the top of the food web, and as such, are an important indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem.
What do they rely on?
Marine birds rely on a complex balance between healthy habitat and available food supply for survival. Those populations with serious declines are less able to adapt to changes in prey availability or habitat conditions. Scientists have hypothesized that the marine bird declines may be in part related to depressed forage fish populations.
What are the main types?
The three main types of birds in the Puget Sound region are seabirds, sea ducks, as well as shorebirds. The Puget Sound Partnership uses the term ‘marine birds‘ for all three types.
Seabirds – Seabirds, (excluding waterfowl) frequent coastal waters and the open ocean. Examples are gulls, murres, pelicans, cormorants, and albatrosses. Sea ducks – Sea ducks are diving ducks that frequent the sea, such as scoters, harlequins, long-tailed ducks and mergansers. Shorebirds – Shorebirds are any bird that frequent the seashore such as western sandpipers and black oyster-catchers.
What is the issue?
Scientists do not fully know what is driving this decline but some likely factors include decreased in forage fish populations, including herring spawn at Cherry Point and Discovery Bay, changing migration patterns, predation, habitat loss, hunting, by-catch from fishing operations (including derelict fishing gear), and harm to breeding grounds in the Arctic.
What is being done?
Unlike many other species in Puget Sound, such as orca and chinook salmon, few of the populations of marine birds in decline are protected under state or federal law. However, scientists and resource managers from government and private, nonprofit organizations are stepping up efforts to understand declines in marine bird populations.