Sea Bird Logging

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Focus Your Binoculars on Seabirds! Help seabird conservation by reporting your sightings at sea.

S-V Joyant, photo by Tom Wadlow

Any and all data from offshore waters are of high value!
Brian Sullivan, one of eBird’s Project leaders

The idea of a “SeaBC” Sea Bird Count was inspired by popular land-based citizen counts such as Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and the Census Bird Count (CBC) in the U.K.

Seabirds are the last frontier of birding, poorly documented, and in dire need of conservation data.

Sailors are the “eyes on the water” for reporting sightings. And if any land birds hitchhike on your vessel, your report provides a clue to over-the-ocean migration patterns. Participation is easy. Volunteers are available to help you identify any birds you photograph.

Whenever possible, take multiple digital photographs. Birds can be identified later using our volunteer reviewers. This is crucial to document rarities.

Logging Forms

You can download electronic forms for the SeaBC Sea Bird Count from the following links. They are optimized PDFs to be as efficient a file size as possible for at-sea bandwidths.

Instructions are included on how to submit your forms to the SeaBC Sea Bird Count or to eBird (a joint project of Cornell University and National Audubon Society).

Lots more resources are available at

Incidental Tally Sheet

This is more geared for beginners, to photograph or record any birds you notice. Typically this consists of birds that fly very close, follow a boat’s wake for an extended time, or land on the boat.

Hourly Tally Sheet

This is a more committed role, namely to record all birds for an hour. This protocol provides a “complete checklist,” which has more value to scientists, but is more difficult for sailors who are unfamiliar with birding.

Too busy sailing?

If you don’t have time to complete the forms, simply take 2-4 photos of any bird and/or flock encountered while underway. End each photo stream with a photo of your chartplotter showing lat-long.

When you get to shore and have time and good Internet, submit your sightings. Diana Doyle at SeaBC will work with experts to identify your photos and submit reports to Cornell University’s eBird database. You and your vessel will be credited as collecting the data, the photos will be linked to the reports as documentation, and Diana will notify you of any rare sightings you contributed.

Seabird Primers

These will help you to understand the ‘families’ of birds. There are simply too many species, and too much regional variety, to do anything as comprehensive as field guide. You need to move away from looking at plumage, which is highly variable even within  species, and understand what’s a jaeger and what’s a storm-petrel, and look at silhouettes  showing the body type and relative sizes as well as typical behaviors.

Sharing Your Findings

Download this document: Birding Aboard — How to Participate in the “SeaBC” Sea Bird Count (PDF)

Recent News

Sailors Report Unusual Seabirds

Birdwatching Blog – Birds at home miles from shore are targets of seafaring birdwatchers

Useful Links

How will climate change affect the birds of North America? Read the Audubon Birds and Climate Report, a comprehensive, first-of-its kind study that predicts how climate change could affect the ranges of 588 North American birds using three decades of citizen-scientist observations.

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