One of the biggest problems that seabirds have to overcome is that they require two completely different habitats to forage for food and to breed, namely open water to find food and land to breed and build their nests. Because of man’s continuing devastation of both of these environments certain seabirds are now facing extinction and it is now that we have to address these threats to their habitats or we face losing some species completely.
Many seabirds choose the most remote places to build their land homes, and these can be on remote islands perched precariously on cliff tops in an effort to avoid predators. The problem these birds have is the ever invasive expansion by mankind and the plethora of predators waiting to steal their eggs. Most seabirds do not have any natural defense against predators apart from taking flight and leaving their nests defenseless.
As mankind continues to look for new land to raise their livestock then other animals also join the hunt. Which can include rodents, feral cats, and even pigs have a penchant for eggs which obviously kills the chicks. Grazing sheep, deer, cattle, and goats pose a great danger to the natural habitats of the seabirds as they trample down possible food. Another significant factor in all this is the mortality rate of many seabirds is high due to the fact the species matures late in life and their reproduction cycle is very slow.
Threats at Sea
If you thought existing on the land was difficult enough for seabirds, then their once haven of the sea now offers little protection and even greater dangers. Because seabirds pay no heed to political boundaries their problems become international to solve and this is a major barrier to improving their situation. Pollutants such as plastic, oil spillages, and discarded garbage in our marine environments is now at critical level and destroys the feeding grounds the seabirds use.
Seabirds often mistake plastics for food and think that they have eaten, only to be found washed up on beaches dead with a belly full of plastic. This is a real problem for the life of these birds and again threatens their very existence. And if you thought all this was tough, fisheries are now competing with the seabirds for the very same fish they rely to live on. Many commercial fishing vessels catch ancillary fish such as anchovies and sardines that are thrown back dead to rot in the sea and destroy the seabird’s food.
Another threat to certain species of seabirds is lead paint, and even on the sanctuary of wildlife refuge areas they are still at risk. An example of this is the Laysan Albatross who have colonized the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge where thousands of birds migrate to nest and rear their young. The birds have taken to eating lead based chips from the discarded buildings and develop a condition called droop-wing which makes it incredibly difficult to fly. It has already been estimated that ten thousand chicks have died because of lead poisoning. The common factor in all these dangers to seabirds is man, and with the right political debates and agreements man can also solve the situation.