Pelagics

Southern Giant-petrel (juvenile) Macronectes giganteus ©Ian Montgomery Website
…like a bird on the wing, over the sea…

Birders are not only an intrepid lot, they also seem to need constant stimulation. Not content to see the birds inhabiting their (or anyone else’s) land, they must go to see to see the seabirds too!

Opportunities exist on board cruises, ferries and other normal sea traffic and a storm may bring the birds to your shore but, in some parts of the world, there are especially organised pelagic excursions just to bird watch.

A few are regular events such as the Scillonian pelagics off UK’s Cornish coast in search of Petrels or off South Yorkshire for Shearwaters and Skuas (Jaegers). Others are one-off trips advertised for those wan pelagics off Broome (Australia).

In other places such as Cape Town, California & New Zealand there are regular pelagics often combining whale-watching with the birdsBelow are some websites that pelagic birders should find of use… as always the Fat Birder welcomes suggestions for other entries for this page.

This page is sponsored by Albatross Birding and Nature Tours

Useful Reading
  • Far from Land: The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds

    | By Michael Brooke| illustrated by Bruce Pearson | Princeton University Press | 2018 | Paperback | 256 Pages | 23 Colour & 28 Black & White Illustrations | 6 Maps | ISBN: 9780691174181 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Flight Identification of European Seabirds

    | by Anders Blomdahl, Bertil Breife & Niklas Holmstrom | Christopher Helm | 2007 | Paperback | ISBN: 9780713686166 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Multimedia Identification Guide to North Atlantic Seabirds: Pterodroma Petrels

    | by Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher | 2013 | Hardback | ISBN: 9780956886712 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Ocean Birds of the World

    | (A photo Guide) | By Steve N G Howell & Kirk Zufelt | Princeton University Press | 2019 | Paperback | 128 Pages | colour photos| ISBN: 9780691175010 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Pelagic Birds of the North Atlantic: An Identification Guide

    | (Annotated artworks of all 56 species likely to be encountered in the North Atlantic) | By Andy Paterson | New Holland Publishers | 2012 | Spiralbound | 32 pages, 272 b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781780092287 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Whales, Dolphins and seabirds of the Bay of Biscay and English Channel

    | Edited by Greame Cresswell & Dylan Walker | Cetacea (ORCA) | 2001 | Paperback | systematic list & distribution maps | photos | ISBN: 9780953682911 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • Royal Navy Birdwatching Society

    Website
    Website due for launch Feb 2004 - Secretary Commander Francis Ward francisward@btopenworld.com Francis Ward 16 Cutlers Lane, Stubbington FAREHAM, Hants PO14 2JN U.K.
  • Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association

    Website
    SOSSA is a wildlife conservation and research organisation. Its members are dedicated amateurs and professionals who share a common interest and concern for the marine environment and the wildlife of the Southern Oceans. SOSSA organises regular pelagic trips from Wollongong, NSW and Southport, QLD so both members and visitors can view some of the spectacular marine life that occurs off Australia's coast
  • The Seabird Group

    Website
    The Seabird Group, a registered charity, was founded in 1966 to promote and help coordinate the study and conservation of seabirds
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Laridae [French]

    Mailing List
    Laridae est une liste de diffusion ornithologique exclusivement consacr
  • Seabirds - Euro-seawatching

    Mailing List
    The euro- seawatching Yahoo! Group intends to improve the communication among european seawatchers. The area covered is within the European waters (Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic, Mediterranean,
Guides & Tour Operators
  • See Life Paulagics

    Tour Operator
    I’ve been in business running pelagic trips since November 2002. I started running and leading pelagic trips in my late teens. So now I’ve got over 39 years of experience in the pelagic business. I’m still trying to perfect our trips to successfully satisfy all the participants on board each trip. One way is to always ask for feedback.
Trip Reports
  • 2000 [October] - The Lost Islands of the Atlantic Ocean

    Report
    This is an abridged version of a report sent to those who came on this 36-day cruise, travelling from Tenerife in the Canary Islands south to the Cape Verde Islands, Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Gough Island and then west across the south Atlantic to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands
  • 2001 [February] - Tony Pym

    Report
    Antarctica with South Georgia and the Falkland Islands
  • 2001 [Nov/Dec] - Lords of Antarctica

    Report
    From Tasmania to the Ross Sea and the Emperor Penguin rookeries. Visiting Macquarie, Campbell and Enderby Islands - November/December 2001 (Photos of Emperors and Southern Royal Albatrosses
  • 2002 [June] - Around the Ring of Fire

    Report
    From Japan along the Kuril Islands to Siberia (Kamchatka); then the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands to finish in Nome, Alaska - June 2002 (Photographs include Least and Parakeet Auklets)
  • 2003 [August] - David Mason

    Report
    Although I have never been a particularly good sailor, the promotional literature suggests "The Pride of Bilbao" is a smooth, fully stabilised vessel and one of the most luxurious ships in the P&O Ferries fleet and with this in mind Amanda and I (along with her sister Susan, who has no interest in birds whatsoever
  • 2003 [August] - Galapagos Islands - Tony Pym

    Report
    The Galapagos Islands aboard the Beluga
  • 2003 [June] - Tony Pym - Ring of Fire

    Report
  • 2003 [November] - Tony Pym - In the Wake of the Bounty

    Report
    A Seabirding trip through Southeastern Polynesia(from Tahiti to Easter Island)
  • 2004 [August] - Mark How - Biscay

    Report
    An early rise and on deck for 7am conditions were a bit blowy and things started slow, a few gannets and an occasional dolphin to spark interest. The first bird of interest was a sooty shearwater, Things picked up and a great shearwater was picked up. I missed the next great shear that was much closer in buying lunch. The afternoon provided more dolphins mostly common although a few bottle nosed showed quite well. The first fin whale appeared very close to the boat, and was followed by many more during the afternoon and evening. I missed some pilot whales which was a bit disappointing, I also missed a dogfish sp. The first hitchhiker put in its appearance a willow warbler on the chimney of the boat. A group of storm petrels showed reasonably close in along with some tuna. Several other small groups of stormy and individuals were spotted from time to time. This was followed by another hitchhiker a wheatear that seemed to stay for the rest of the journey. A great shearwater was sat on the sea very close to the boat giving excellent views before it flew. A bonxie and a pale phase artic skua took attention away from the regular stream of fin whales and some unidentified roqual whales. One fin whale surfacing as close to the boat as possible without hitting it. A sunfish passed by glimmering in the evening sun. The last bird of the evening was a common tern sat on a pallet as it floated by. The sun set and that was it for the day
  • 2004 [February] - Tony Pym - Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and Argentina

    Report
    There had been heavy snow with treacherous icy roads. Some airports in the UK, and in other parts of Europe, had closed. I travelled earlier than planned to Heathrow in case of any problems on the roads or at the airport. I arrived at Heathrow at 1600, four hours before our scheduled departure, and many of the group were already in the terminal having had the same thoughts as myself. Air France advised that our flight could have problems connecting with the one to Argentina and suggested we took earlier flights to Paris
  • 2004 [November] - Tony Pym - Humboldt Current

    Report
    Seabirding along the Humboldt Current - From Callao (Peru), along the coast of Chile, to Ushuaia (Argentina)
  • 2005 [November] - Tony Pym - The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia

    Report
    The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia
  • 2007 [September] - Tony Pym - Galapagos

    Report
    An early morning start for our onward travel to the Galapagos Islands. Breakfast was served at 0500 and at 0550 Wendy from our agents arrived and we loaded the bus for the airport
  • 2008 [July] - Tony Pym - The Fiji Petrel Expedition

    Report
    Most birders will know the story behind the enigmatic and near-mythical Fiji Petrel. Unrecorded from the type specimen taken in 1855 until 1984 when Dick Watling had the extraordinary experience, when spotlighting, of a bird crash-landing into his head! Breeding is suspected on the small island of Gau
  • 2009 [April] - Tony Pym - Western Pacific Odyssey

    Report
    New Zealand, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Caroline Islands, Bonin Islands, Izu Islands and Japan
  • 2015 [December] - Chris Collins - Mexico Pelagic

    PDF Report
    The main focus of this ‘world first’ voyage was to look for two of the rarest and most localisedseabirds on the planet, Townsend’s Shearwater and Ainley’s Storm-petrel, and we had greatsuccess with good views of both species...
  • 2016 [February] - Alan Tate - Buenos Aires to Los Angeles cruise

    Report
    ...So at the end of February we arrived in Buenos Aires, the day before our huge cruise liner was due to sail. A quick look at Costanera reserve was in order, but sadly "progress" has reared it's ugly head in the ten years since our previous visit. Most of the same species are still there, but the trails have been widened, the marsh area is much more vegetated and difficult to view. Whilst this is obviously better for birds the trails are now in use to a large extent by joggers and cyclists, so many birds are now staying hidden that used to be easily viewed. However, it's still worth a visit if you've never been before....
  • 2018 [09 September] - Bar Harbor Maine

    Report
    On Saturday, September 15, we ran our annual pelagic trip out of Bar Harbor. The weather and sea conditions in the Gulf of Maine during the fall can always be a challenge, and we were especially cautious this year with Hurricanes Florence and Helene throwing waves our way. Fortunately, Saturday provided one of the perfect windows between any swells and the birds (and mammals) cooperated!
  • 2019 [01 January] - Cape Town

    Report
    It was with some relief that the Cape Town Pelagic was given the green light to run on Saturday the 19th of January. While the predictions were for some rather large swell and uncomfortable chop, the wind was predicted to be minimal. As such, we boarded the Destiny in Simon's Town and were soon running through the picturesque False Bay. In the bay we enjoyed the usual coast birds as well and a single White-chinned Petrel before we got to Cape Point.
  • 2019 [02 February] - Cape Town

    Report
    Sunday morning saw Cape Town Pelagics run two boats out of Simon's Town harbour in calm conditions and a glassy sea. Our first exciting encounter came just before Cape Point, as a Bryde's Whale gave great close up views while feeding on bait fish; Swift Terns and Cape Fur Seals in close proximity. After stopping for photographs at Cape Point, we headed for the deep. There were plenty of active pelagic birds not far offshore - White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwater and Cory's Shearwater were our first three pelagic ticks, while coastal species such as Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorant were also around. A Parasitic Jaeger also did a flyby early on, and we watched three Sabine's Gulls interacting before they moved on. A little further out, we managed to spy the diminutive Wilson's Storm Petrel.
  • 2019 [03 March] - Cape Town

    Report
    The trip down to Cape Point was punctuated by sightings of Greater Crested Terns, some being harassed by Parasitic Jaegers. We had additional sightings of jaegers, but they were substantially farther away, with one potential Pomarine Jaeger, but the distance made identification difficult. The other highlight was an equally distant Bryde's Whale.
  • 2019 [04 April] - Cape Town

    Report
    Our trip left Simon's Town in very overcast conditions. The harbour was busy with coastal seabirds like Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls, Great Crested Terns, as well as Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants. We spotted several small groups of African Penguins heading out from their breeding colony at Boulders Beach.
  • 2019 [05 May] - Buena Vista Audubon

    Report
    The first Buena Vista Audubon pelagic birding trip of 2019 departed Sunday on the Grande under cloudy skies, with a relatively light swell and a nice northwesterly breeze – near ideal conditions, particularly for finding alcids, and we found plenty. The highlight for many participants was the excellent views of Scripps’s Murrelets throughout the day, including a pair with two chicks. Although the timing of nesting varies from year to year, probably relating in part to resource availability, this is a fairly early date for fledglings.
  • 2019 [05 May] - Cape Town

    Report
    We began adding to our trip list before we even got on the boat, with Grey-headed, Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls roosting on the pier, and a few Cape and Crowned Cormorants feeding in the harbour, and White-breasted Cormorants roosting on the edge of the yacht basin.
  • Monterey Seabird Cruise Trip Reports

    Report
    Reports covering several years` worth of regular pelagics
  • Zest for Birds

    Report
    A series of reports of South African pelagics.
Other Links
  • Madeira Seawatching

    Website
    Both the gallery and the website will continue to grow and new photographs are always welcome. The criteria for any photo we publish on this site is that it has to be photographed in the Madeiran archipelago (Madeira, Porto Santo and Desertas). If you have any suitable photographs that would warrant publication then please don't hesitate to contact me for further details or e-mail me at Birding Madeira
  • Monterey Seabirds

    Website
    Monterey Seabirds features year-round pelagic trips enabling you to experience the seabirds of the Monterey Bay in their respective seasons. Just offshore of Monterey, California lies a 6000-foot deep submarine canyon running right down the middle of the Monterey Bay. Similar in size to the Grand Canyon of the American Southwest, this geologic feature creates cold-water upwellings, rich in nutrients that foster a remarkable diversity of seabirds and cetaceans. The combination of these elements within a semi-protected bay makes Monterey a worldwide destination for pelagic birding. Just a few miles from shore one can observe pelagic seabirds that travel across both the hemisphere and the ocean to feed in these bountiful waters.
  • Natural Born Birder - Offshore

    Website
    Sort of static pelagic!
  • Pelagic - Australia - Pelagic Birding Homepage

    Website
    Welcome to the Australian Pelagic Home Page: A page dedicated to those with an interest in pelagic bird watching, photography and whale-watching. Offering some interesting information on what can be seen around oceans of Australia. Pelagic trips have been departing from a number of ports around Australia for many years now, providing a considerable amount of information on the birds and mammals likely to be encountered.
  • Pelagic - Australia - Southern Ocean Seabirds Study Association

    Website
    SOSSA is a wildlife conservation and research organisation. Its members are dedicated amateurs and professionals who share a common interest and concern for the marine environment and the wildlife of the Southern Oceans. SOSSA organises regular pelagic trips from Wollongong, NSW and Southport, QLD so both members and visitors can view some of the spectacular marine life that occurs off Australia's coast
  • Pelagic - Canada - Newfoundland Coastal Safari

    Website
    Bald eagles, pelagic seabirds, whales, caribou in the Newfoundland South Coast Wilderness. Safari tent camp, seafood, vegetarian meals, hot showers.
  • Pelagic - Madeira

    Website
    Besides a full day trip to Desertas you also have the opportunity to get out to sea for a half day along the northeast coast or the south coast (passing by the seawatching spot Ponta da Cruz) to Cabo Gir
  • Pelagic - New Zealand - Fullers - Tiritiri Matangi Boat Trips

    Website
    Tiritiri Matangi Island is a stunning wildlife sanctuary for New Zealand’s native birds, and an important conservation project. From the moment you step onto the island to the moment you leave, you’ll be serenaded by birdsong.
  • Pelagic - New Zealand - Land and Pelagic Trips

    Website
    I am a Kiwi by birth and inclination, and, as an excuse to get back home and to show New Zealand and its birds to others, I run a birding tour to New Zealand in November of alternating years. I charge enough to cover costs; making money on these tours is not my priority. I like to keep the group to 8-10 in size. We stay at quality accommodations and the food is outstanding; the trips have been described more than once as culinary tours of New Zealand with some birding thrown in, or as eating our way around New Zealand. But seriously, the quality of New Zealand restaurant food and wines is outstanding these days. The tours are not physically strenuous, but we do keep moving, and so you must be reasonably active and in fairly good shape.
  • Pelagic - New Zealand - Monarch Wildlife Cruises

    Website
    Passengers board the Monarch to see what cannot be seen from land, to greet the mighty Northern Royal Albatross as it sweeps in from the open Pacific Ocean and soars above the spectacular inaccessible cliffs of Taiaroa. These escarpments are alive with eight other species of birds nesting above families of Fur Seals. Close offshore, huge flocks of Sooty Shearwaters feed among other Shearwaters, Petrels and other species of Albatross.
  • Pelagic - New Zealand - Talisker Charters

    Website
    We can offer birders a variety of charters to suit interests, budgets and time, Please feel free to contact us as we are happy to discuss your birding visit to Stewart Island or the smaller islands such s Ulva Island which is now mammal free and home to an increasing population of threatened forest species relocated from other places. We can assist with all local details including transport, accommodation, places to visit and also Kiwi watching as well as pelagics offering two, or possibly three species of penguin plus petrels, shearwaters, prions and albatrosses.
  • Pelagic - South Africa - Anne Albatross Cape Pelagics

    Facebook Page
    Sailing out of Simon`s Town we go past Cape Point into the deep sea targeting fishing trawlers. In winter thousands of birds will be seen, comprising up to 25 species.The species differ from season to season. Albatrossess, Petrels, Shearwaters, Gannets, Prions, Storm Petrels, Giant Petrels, Fulmar & Phalarope are all out there actively feeding.
  • Pelagic - South Africa - Capetown Pelagics

    Website
    The aim of CapeTownPelagics.com is to promote sustainable ecotourism, not only by providing a wealth of seabird information and a facility to book a place on any pelagic trip off South Africa, but to put all the proceeds back into conservation. There is no extra charge involved in booking through this site, and all commissions earned from bookings and charters made through this site are donated to seabird research and conservation. Some donations in the past went to Wandering and Grey-headed Albatross satellite-tracking research at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, and BirdLife International's Seabird Conservation Programme
  • Pelagic - South Africa - Zest for Birds

    Website
    Want to see albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, etc.? Join us for what many consider to be the highlight of their South African birding itinerary. We operate a regular schedule of pelagic trips into the Cape Town offshore waters that are accompanied by the most experienced seabird experts in the country.
  • Pelagic - UK

    Website
    This is a sea fishing webpage but it gives a list of boats around Britain that may be suitable/possible to hire for trips should you be contemplating organising your own pelagic.
  • Pelagic - UK - Scillonian Pelagic Trips

    Website
    Warmed by the Gulf Stream, buffeted by the Atlantic, relying on sea and air links with the mainland, the unique Isles of Scilly are a world apart. Populated by a friendly community of just over 2000 islanders, sub-tropical Scilly has tranquillity and a quality of life long lost to less isolated places. Exotic plants and wild flowers, ancient cairns and crumbling castles, sparkling white sands by an azure sea - all just 28 miles from Land
  • Pelagic - UK - Scotland - Hebridean Whale Cruises

    Website
    Welcome to Hebridean Whale Cruises. We operate whale watching and wildlife cruises from Gairloch, on Scotland's spectacular north west coast, and from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
  • Pelagic - US - California - Monterey Seabirds

    Website
    Monterey Seabirds features year-round pelagic trips enabling you to experience the seabirds of the Monterey Bay in their respective seasons...
  • Pelagic - US - California - Searcher Offshore birding

    Website
    Searcher Natural History Tours offers some exciting options for those eager to bird the offshore waters of Southern California on multi-day trips from San Diego…
  • Pelagic - US - California - Shearwater Journeys

    Website
    Californian coastal trips
  • Pelagic - US - Pelagic Trips off New England

    Website
    To most birders, pelagic birding means taking a trip on a boat and getting out there. Area bird clubs sponsor trips. These trips include dedicated trips where the club charters a boat and trips where the group joins a commercial whale watch or fishing trip. Whale research organizations also sponsor trips for Cetaceans on which you can also see birds
  • Pelagic - US - Texas Pelagics

    Website
    Dedicated exclusively to Seabirding in Texas. TexasPelagics.com is dedicated to promoting public pelagic birding trips and advancing the knowledge of pelagic birds in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas Coast. TexasPelagics.com is a free, non-profit service to the birding community and has no financial interest in promoting Pelagic birding
  • Seabird Osteology

    Website
    The Seabirds Skull Gallery, existing since 2002, has only been changed a bit and was given a new name that covers the subject more properly. After two years working on this site it is not only skulls anymore that are shown. Regular visitors have already noticed that since December 2004 the scope has widened. It now includes also other parts of the seabird skeleton. In the Seabird Osteology section general aspects of seabird osteology are treated and in the species section you willl find a listing of families and groups with links to pages on skeletons of particular species or groups. There is always work in progress, which means that there will be additions and improvements from time to time
  • Seabirds - British Marine Life Study Society

    Website
    Birds of the open ocean, seashore and estuaries around the British Isles
  • Seabirds - NW Pacific

    Website
    I have put together the favourite land based sea-watch sites along the Pacific Coast. I have tried to discuss not only the most productive site, but also sites with good access for watching from a vehicle or good cover. As often as not, some of the best weather for finding the best seabirds are on the days when walking to a lookout is least inviting.
  • Seabirds - Ocean Wanderers

    Website
    Angus Wilson's excellent Bird Identification Resource
  • Seabirds - Pacific Seabird Group

    Website
    The Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) is a society of professional seabird researchers and managers dedicated to the study and conservation of seabirds. PSG was formed in 1972 out of a need for increased communication among academic and government seabird researchers. The principle goals of PSG are (1) to increase the quality and quantity of seabird research through facilitating exchange of information and (2) to identify and assess the importance of threats to seabird populations and provide government agencies and others with expert advice on managing the threats and populations.
  • Seabirds - Project Puffin

    Website
    The National Audubon Society started Project Puffin in 1973 in an effort to learn how to restore puffins to historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. At that time, literally all the puffin eggs in Maine were in two baskets - Matinicus Rock and Machias Seal Island. Although puffins are not an endangered species (they are abundant in Newfoundland, Iceland, and Britain); they are rare in Maine. The two surviving colonies were very vulnerable to a disaster such as an oil spill, or accidental establishment of predators such as rats or mink.
  • Seabirds - Seabirds (and Cetaceans)

    Website
    This has a number of reports of ranging from pelagics to the South Atlantic and the North Pacific, Antarctica, with others to be added soon. Also there are photos, notes, articles of mine etc.
  • Searcher Natural History Tours

    Tour Operator
    Spend several days offshore over deep-water canyons, underwater seamounts, and around islands of the southern California bight. Our 5-day tour travels north over the 9 Mile Bank, weaves through the Channel Islands, and continues past Point Conception to Arguello Canyon, Rodriguez Dome, San Juan Seamount and wherever the seabirds lead us.
  • Seawatching - Madeira

    Website
    The numbers of European birdwatchers that visit the Madeira archipelago have increased dramaticly in recent years. The reasons for this are many and varied. The main reason to visit Madeira has always been the endemic bird species and races. The second reason, and probably the most important one, is the excellent opportunity to seawatch from the mainland or boat crossings between the nearby islands. The hot spot Porto Moniz, which is the number one site for seawatching, is certainly the good reason for many birders to visit Madeira. However, Madeira offers easy birding and is a perfect destination for a combined holiday. Every birding site or boat trip has something for everyone!
  • Seevogel und Tiere der Nord-und Ostsee

    Website
    Here you can get information about the North and Baltic Seas, focusing on the seabirds
  • Tides - Tidal Height and Current Site Selection

    Website
    Select a region here, then from that page, select a site for which to generate predictions. You will get basic predictions and a form for customized predictions. Predictions take a few moments to calculate, please be patient. This is much easier to use if you do the Alpha search as pointed out on Jack`s website. The other two tide sites are fine. When you have your favoured place, bookmark it.
  • Tides - UK

    Website
Blogs
  • Pelagic Birder

    BLOG
    Pelagic birding work voyages/local patch & occasional twitch birding news

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