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Sea birds

Northern gannetsNorthern gannetsAbout 300 species of birds live on or near the ocean, feeding on fish and other marine life. They include penguins, skuas, gulls, guillemots, terns, puffins, auks, skimmers, albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, frigatebirds, gannets, boobies, cormorants, shags, tropicbirds and pelicans. Some kinds dive into the water from the air, or from high rocks. Others skim over the surface, scooping up food. Some, such as penguins, can pursue their prey by swimming through the water. Most sea birds have waterproof feathers and rough, webbed feet to help them paddle or snatch up slippery fish. Many sea birds gather in large colonies to breed, often laying just one egg.


A cliffside colony of common guillemotsA cliffside colony of common guillemotsA great skua attacks a group of storm petrelsA great skua attacks a group of storm petrelsThe vast majority of sea birds gather in huge colonies, often returning to the same place every year to nest. Some species nest on the ground, while others nest on cliffsides or in burrows. Seaside cliffs are ideal nesting sites as they are out of reach of most predators while still being close to the sea, the birds’ main food source.

When their chicks hatch, parents catch fish to bring back for them. A puffin may carry about 10 fish in its beak at a time. Birds that feed further out to sea, such as guillemots, swallow their catch, then, on returning to their nest, regurgitate it into their infants' beaks.

The Arctic tern makes the longest journey of migration of any animal—a round trip of about 26,000 km (16,000 miles) between the Arctic and Antarctica.

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