FAMOUS SEABIRDS AND HOW THEY LIVE – PART 1

If you are lucky enough to live on the coast you probably spend a great deal of your time down there enjoying leisure activities and breathing in the bracing sea air. You can also look up and see the marine birds circling in the sky looking for food. Most of theses type of birds are gulls and they are coastal birds, it is hard to spot real marine birds from the land, perhaps been knocked off course by a storm. But take out a boat and go further out to sea and you will start to see gannets, auks, kittiwakes and fulmars.

In this blog we look at some of the marine birds that you can find in the North Sea area of Scotland, Northern England, Helgoland, and Norway. Here the marine birds like to nest on the rocky coastlines of the land and can even be found on oil platforms.

Ancient Superstitions

Sailors have always been a superstitious lot, and in early seafaring days there was nothing else to see for sailors on long voyages than marine birds and the occasional porpoise. Sailors considered marine birds both as companions on their nautical trips but also as a portent for weather. Birds around the boat in windless conditions was a sign that a storm was coming, and wind was on the way to propel the boat. Another myth was departed seaman’s souls lived in the birds looking after their old crew members.

Birds Found in the North Sea

There are roughly three hundred different kinds of marine birds that can be found all over the seas and oceans of the world. And in the North Sea there are just ten common species of marine birds, that include: Auks, fulmars, gannets, skuas, and kittiwakes. The birds breed on land on high rocky cliffs, the more remote the better.

True Marine Birds

The sea is not an inviting environment for any warm-blooded animal to try and live, as it offers zero protection whatsoever from the elements. Marine birds have particular adaptations that make them suited to this wild environment. They have large stomachs and can store food in the form of fat. It is quite incredible to think that a fulmar for instance can carry as much as 20% of its body weight in food. This is to provide two vital functions, the first obviously is nourishment and the second is for warmth.

Marine birds also have close-fitting plumage to assist in retaining heat and keeping out water. And most of the birds have adapted a way of using sea water as drinking water, by eliminating any salt using glands that can be found on their head. Any excess salt is forced out of the body via a small canal to the nostrils, and if you study sea birds up close it is sometimes possible to sea salt crystals hanging from the beak.

The reproduction system of these marine creatures means that they only produce one egg a year, and the gestation period is just over a month. The young chicks can stay in the nest for up to three months and need feeding during this time, and in part two we see how these great sea birds hunt for food.