Identifying Dead Seabirds

It is challenging to identify waterlogged seabirds to species. The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels has compiled a list of identification guides in order to help observers and fishermen identify bycaught animals. ACAP's latest Seabird Bycatch Identification Guide covers 37 of the most frequently caught Procellariiform species.

If you are unsure of the species, use these tips (page numbers refer to the guide below) to help you record as much information as possible. If you should capture an individual with a legband, please see page 84 of this document.  

1. Basic Identification

  • Start by looking at its bill - size and position of nostrils as shown on pages 6-9 to decide if it’s an albatross, a petrel or another group.
  • If it’s an albatross, use the keys and photos on pages 10-13, to identify the bird to a particular species (or to the 2 or 3 species that it might be), and go to the page specified to confirm the identification. If it’s a petrel, use the key on pages 14-15, then go to the page as directed. If it’s a shearwater, look at pages 66-77.
  • Record wing length and bill length as shown on page 4.

2. Record

  • Record your details or identification in the logbook choosing one of the FAO codes, or a combination of codes from the list on pages 96-99.

3. Take photos

  • Take three photos of the bird as shown on pages 78-81 and submit with the logbook.

4. Sample feathers

  • If a sampling programme is in place, pluck some feathers for DNA analysis as shown on pages 82-83.