The following is an near exhaustive list of sea bird species commonly found in the East Atlantic Arctic. Sea birds are birds which spend their life almost exclusively on the water except for the breeding season, and get their food exclusively from the sea. They are not normally found inland. These birds exhibit few differences between males and females.
Auks, forming the family Alcidae, are black and white seabirds which are reminiscent of penguins to which they are not closely related. They are in fact more closely related to skuas, seagulls, and waders. Together, they form the large and diverse order of the Charadriiformes. One member of the family, the Great auk Pinguinus impennis, is extinct because of over-hunting, and was last seen in Iceland in the mid 19th century. It was the largest auk, reaching heights of 85cm for weights up to 5kg, and was the only member of the family that could not fly. Auks that breed in the East Atlantic Arctic currently are the following species.
- The Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica. This stout, medium-sized auk (28-30cm in length) is unmistakable with its wide colorful beak. It breeds on coasts from northeastern Canada to northwestern France, including around Iceland, in western Greenland and a small part of eastern Greenland, Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and northern Fennoscandia. Outside of the breeding season, it is found exclusively at sea. Its conservation status is critical, as climate change is affecting its food sources, and some colonies are rapidly declining.
- The Black guillemot Cepphus grylle. During the breeding season, this medium-sized auk (30-32cm in length) is recognizable to its largely black plumage with a white spot on the wing, but in winter it is much lighter and may be recognized by its red legs and inside of the beak, which it shows while vocalizing. The black guillemot has a circumpolar distribution, including around Greenland (except the north), Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and Fennoscandia. The populations that breeds in the High Arctic are migratory.
- The Dovekie or Small auk Alle alle. This auk is the smallest in the North Atlantic, with a length of 19-21cm. Like the black guillemot, its plumage gets lighter and less striking in winter. It is still easy to recognize by its size and short beak. It breeds in colonies from northeastern Canada to the northern Siberian Islands, including some parts of western and eastern Greenland and Svalbard. In winter, it may be seen off the coasts of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Norway. Populations of the dovekie seem to be decreasing.
- The Common murre or Common guillemot Uria aalge. This large auk (38-46cm in length) is circumpolar and breeds in cliff colonies including south-western Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and Norway. The winter plumage is similar to summer, but the throat and cheeks are white with a black streak running down from the eye.
- The Razorbill Alca torda. The only member of the genius Alca and closest living relative to the Great auk, this auk is much smaller than its extinct relative (37-39cm in length). It can be recognized by its distinctive beak in shape and color. It is endemic to the North Atlantic, with breeding sites in northeastern America, Greenland, around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the UK, northwestern France, and Fennoscandia.
- The Thick-billed murre or Brünnich's guillemot Uria lomvia. This is the largest living member of the auk family with a body length of 40 to 18cm. It is similar in appearance to the common murre but the beak is thicker, and has a pure white streak splitting it longitudinally. The thick-billed murre is circumpolar, and a mostly High Arctic breeder. Breeding sites include around Iceland, eastern and western Greenland, Svalbard, and northern Norway. It is found around the Faroe Islands, but does not breed there.
Suliformes is the order that contains Gannets (Sulidae) and Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae). These families were previously classed in the same order as pelicans, Pelecaniformes.
Gannets and boobies, or "sulids" are members of the Sulidae family. Sulids fly then plunge for fish midair, taking them about 1-2m underwater. The only member of the sulidae family in the East Atlantic Arctic is the Northern gannet Morus bassanus, and it is also the largest member of the family (87-100cm in length for wingspans of 170-180cm). They have breeding colonies in eastern Canada, Iceland, Great Britain, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and nortwestern France.
Cormorants and shags are members of the Phalacrocoracidae family. They are excellent divers, and some cormorants have been found to dive down to 45m. However, their short wings make them inefficient flyers. Two species of cormorants and shags are commonly found in the East Atlantic Arctic.
- The European shag Gulosus aristotelis. The only member of its genus, this glossy black bird can be recognized from the great cormorant by its smaller size (65-80cm in length), thinner bill, and the absence of a bald white patch on the throat. It also has a crest and a greenish sheen to the feathers in breeding plumage. It is found from coastal North Africa to northern Norway. It is a resident coastal and marine bird, and in the East Atlantic Arctic, it breeds in western Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Norwegian coast.
- The Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. This large cormorant (80-100cm in length) has a huge range, from eastern America to New Zealand. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it breeds along the western Greenland coast, northwestern Iceland, northern Fennoscandia, and more recently the Finnish coast. Some populations winter throughout the rest of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and southwestern Norway.
Procellariiformes is the order that includes petrels, fulmars, shearwaters, albatrosses, and some storm petrels. They are collectivelly called "tubenoses" for their most prominent unifying feature, their tube-like nose on top of the beak. This complex nose gives them a unusually powerful sense of smell for birds. They are also known to be so adapted to flight and life on the sea that they have lost most of their ability to walk. The order contain four families, but only two are present in the East Atlantic Arctic.
The Northern storm-petrels, classed in the family Hydrobatidae, are a family of pelagic birds (living their life mostly on the sea, far from shore) which are known to be active in their breeding colonies only at night. East Atlantic Arctic storm petrels include the following species.
- The European storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus. This small (14-18cm in length) and slender bird is strictly pelagic outside of breeding season. There are two subspecies, on in the Mediterranean sea and North Africa, and one in the North Atlantic. The North Atlantic subspecies breeds in western France, Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, southern Iceland, and Norway. They are rare vagrants to Svalbard.
- Leach's storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous. Small but slightly bigger than its cousin the European storm-petrel (18-21cm in length), this pelagic bird is very similar in appearance. The distribution, however, is very different: leach's storm petrel can be found both in the Pacific and Atlantic ocean. In the Atlantic ocean, it is distributed from southern Africa to northern Norway. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it breeds in northwestern Norway, southern Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.
The Shearwaters and petrels are the members of the Procellariidae family, which the largest family in the Procellariiformes order. Like the northern storm-petrels, members of the procillarridae family are colonial breeders, but some can be seen more frequently from the coast. Common Procellaridae in the East Atlantic Arctic include the following species.
- The Northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. This bird is often confused with seagulls because of its large size (about 46cm in length) and grey and white color (light morph). It has some interesting characteristics: for example, it is well-known for being able to project stomach acid at predators from a young age, which makes other birds unable to fly. It is circumpolar, and present in temperate to High Arctic regions. In the East Atlantic Arctic, breeding sites include Iceland, western and eastern Greenland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard.
- The Great shearwater Ardenna gravis. This large seabird (about 47cm in length) follows a circulatory migratory route. It breeds in a small island in the South Atlantic during the southern Hemisphere summer, then makes its way up the western Atlantic coast during nothern Hemisphere spring. By August, it crosses the Atlantic, passing by southern Greenland. In Autumn, it makes its way down to South Africa. It is a rare vagrant to Iceland (always offshore).
- The Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus. Like the great shearwater, this medium-sized seabird (30-38cm in length) follows a circulatory migratory pattern, However, this pattern is inverse: the manx shearwater winters in the South Hemisphere and breeds in the North Hemisphere. Countries with breeding sites in the East Atlantic Arctic include the Faroe Islands, and southern Iceland. The are visitors to Norwegian waters.
- The Sooty shearwater Ardenna grisea. About the same size as the great shearwater (40-51cm in length), the sooty shearwater also breeds in South Hemisphere, coming up to North Hemisphere for the Arctic summer. On the other hand, it is the only shearwater in the East Atlantic Arctic to be present in the Pacific as well. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it is found offshore from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, southern Norway, and southern Greenland.
- "Great Auk from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon (1785 - 1851), etched by Robert Havell (1793 - 1878). The original Birds of America is the most expensive printed book in the world and a truly awe-inspiring classic." by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel is licensed under CC BY 2.0
- "Black Guillemot (Arctic) (Cepphus grylle mandtii)" by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- "Little Auk / Dovekie (Alle a. alle)" by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- "Common Guillemot posing on the cliff." by ejwwest is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
- "Thick-billed Murre 1" by budgora is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- "File:European Storm-petrel.jpg" by Otter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
- "08-19-2016 Leach's Storm-Petrel presumed ssp Chapman's BCN MX (crop) 2L5A6689" by jacksnipe1990 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
- "Great Shearwater" by Fyn Kynd is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- "Manx Shearwater" by tombenson76 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- '"Sooty Shearwater" by tombenson76 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
- "Fou de bassan / Northern Gannet" by anthony_m is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5
- "Great Cormorant" by Corine Bliek is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- "European Shag - Farne Is - FJ0A1579" by fveronesi1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- "Atlantic puffins at Matinicus Rock" by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region is licensed under CC PDM 1.0
- "Northern Fulmar (glacialis) (Fulmarus g. glacialis)" by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC PDM 1.0
- "Great Cormorant 2014-08-06_04 [Explored]" by Jan Thomas Landgren is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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