Seabird Sentinels of Marine Climate Change

Farallon Institute


Due to their existence at the boundary layers of the atmosphere and the ocean, seabirds are the most conspicuous of all marine organisms which rely on surface and near-surface ocean habitats. Seabirds also are less exploited than other upper level predators such as fish and mammals. Owing to these and other characteristics, seabirds have been put forth as reliable ecological indicators of coupled physical-ecological change. In this project we are investigating changes in the abundance, distribution, and spatial organization of seabirds in the California Current. In this study FI biologists make counts of seabirds from fisheries research vessels.

The seabird data is valuable for several reasons:

  1. Information on seabird/mammal distribution and abundance provides an upper trophic level perspective which complements the hydrographic and lower trophic-level (plankton) data collected by others.
  2. Estimates of seabird/mammal distribution and abundance contributes to understanding the spatial ecology of these regions.
  3. By extending our existing records (May 1987-present off southern CA; May 1996-present off central-northern CA), these data contribute to understanding the effects of natural and anthropogenic climate variability on the southern and central sectors of the California Current ecosystem.

Survey data reports are available on this page.

The project is supported by the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System and the California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research project.

Survey Data Reports

Icon Seabirds Data CalCOFI 2015-2016 (1.8 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data CalCOFI 2014 (1.2 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data CalCOFI 2013 (1.7 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data CalCOFI 2012 (2.3 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data CalCOFI 2011 (1.5 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data Juvenile Rockfish Survey 2016 (698.1 KB)

Icon Seabirds Data Juvenile Rockfish Survey 2014 (331.3 KB)

Icon Seabirds Data Juvenile Rockfish Survey 2013 (1.0 MB)

Icon Seabirds Data Juvenile Rockfish Survey 2012 (966.9 KB)

Additional Reports

Icon Sydeman et al 2015 DeepSea Res.pdf (2.1 MB)

Icon Important Seabird Areas in the California Current (3.2 MB)

Icon Seabirds and NOAA's California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (1.5 MB)

Icon Suryan_et_al_2012_MEPS.pdf (3.5 MB)


Examples of locally-breeding (brown pelican, brandt's cormorant, cassin's auklet, common murre, elegant tern) and migratory (common loon, bonaparte's gull) seabirds studied by SCCOOS and partners as part of the ocean observing program.  The seabird community varies by season, therefore seasonal surveys are needed to monitor changing ocean conditions.  Photos provided courtesy Ron Le Valley

Common Murre SE Farallon Island 07-05-08 2029.jpgCommon Murre Cassin's Auklet SE Farallon Island SFO 06-30-08 6940.jpgCassin's Auklet
2335-Pacific Loon.jpgPacific Loon Brandt's Cormorant SE Farallon Island 06-22-08 183.jpgBrandt's Cormorant 3318-Elegant Tern.jpgElegant Tern 3323-Brown Pelican.jpgBrown Pelican 3483-Bonapartes Gull.jpgBonapartes Gull

Additional information is available through the Farallon Institute.

Copyright © 2017 Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System