Wild animals

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds

Giulia Graziati
By Giulia Graziati, Writer. May 21, 2024
Types of Mediterranean Seabirds

The Mediterranean is a region of Europe defined by being on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This means it is home to many aquatic animals, as well as the terrestrial animals of inland Mediterranean countries. Seabirds are aquatic animals, although they may spend some of their time on land. They cannot breathe underwater, but they need the sea to carry out necessary behaviors such as feeding and reproduction. While these seabirds share similar habitats, there is also much diversity within these various avian species.

At thedailyECO, we discover 12 types of Mediterranean seabirds. These include the Yelkouan shearwater, Scopoli's shearwater, great cormorant, northern gannet gannet, European shag, Audouin's gull, Sandwich tern and others.

You may also be interested in: Mediterranean Jellyfish Species
  1. Yelkouan shearwater
  2. Scopoli's shearwater
  3. Northern gannet
  4. Great cormorant
  5. European shag
  6. Audouin's gull
  7. Yellow-legged gull
  8. Sandwich tern
  9. Razorbill
  10. Red-breasted merganser
  11. European storm petrel
  12. Arctic skua
See more >>

Yelkouan shearwater

Also known as the Mediterranean shearwater, the Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) is a medium-sized species that is often confused with the related Mediterranean seabird known as the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus). It is endemic to the Mediterranean, nesting on islands and rocky islets in very noisy colonies. It feeds on fish and cephalopods, often feeding on the animals discarded by the fishing industry.

The Yelkouan shearwater has a relatively long life expectancy, living up to 25 years or even more. They have a few offspring per year, but this hasn't stopped them from threat. They are considered vulnerable according to the IUCN.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Yelkouan shearwater

Scopoli's shearwater

Another type of shearwater, but in a different genus, Scopoli's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) is a large-scale seabird with pelagic habits. Pelagic birds are those which spend most of their lives at sea, away from the coast. The breeding populations of this Mediterranean seabird are found in Europe during the summer, but they migrate to western Africa during winter.

The Scopoli's shearwater also feeds on small fish, cephalopods and crustaceans. They may hang around fishing trawlers for scraps. When they do make it to land, they usually nest inside caves on islands and islets, laying a single white egg.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Scopoli's shearwater

Northern gannet

With a slender white body and yellowish head, the northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is one of the largest seabirds in the Mediterranean region. They usually visit this area in winter. With its straight, pointed beak and folded wings, it dives from great heights to fish. It is a great migrator that returns to the same colony year after year. It searches out and uses the same nest again, laying a single egg annually.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Northern gannet

Great cormorant

Also known as the black shag or kawau, the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a winter visitor to the Mediterranean region. It is known for its dark plumage, although part of the face and throat whitish. It has a long neck and a prominent beak adapted to its piscivorous habits. It spends most of its time perched on rocks or logs, with its wings open to dry its plumage. This is because they are not as waterproof as some other Mediterranean seabirds.

Discover more about the types of piscivorous animals with our related guide.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Great cormorant

European shag

Although the European or common shag (Gulosus aristotelis) shares a common name with the above, they are of a different genus to the black shag. This Mediterranean seabird is much smaller and slender than the great cormorant. They inhabit some of the most inaccessible rocky sites and cliffs on the Mediterranean coasts. Unfortunately, their populations have suffered a drastic decline due to overfishing of some of their prey, hydrocarbon pollution and accidents in fishing nets.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - European shag

Audouin's gull

Endemic to the Mediterranean, the Audouin's gull (Ichthyaetus audouinii) is a rare species to observe in the wild. It is linked to the coasts of islands and rocky islets in quiet areas far from large cities, although its main breeding colony is in the Ebro delta. Its diet is based mainly on pelagic fish and terrestrial and marine invertebrates.

Discover the different types of pelagic fish with our related guide.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Audouin's gull

Yellow-legged gull

The yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) is the largest gull in the Mediterranean and one of the most abundant. This is partly because adapts very well to different environmental conditions and is capable of consuming a wide variety of species. In this way, it is considered an opportunistic feeder. With a robust body and long yellow legs, it usually lives in marshes, salt flats, beaches, wetlands, offshore areas and even in large urbanizations.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Yellow-legged gull

Sandwich tern

Not named because it makes a good lunch, the Sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) takes its name from the eponymous town in England. Its population spreads much further and it is one of the most abundant terns in the Mediterranean region. As with most terns, it forms very dense and noisy colonies.

It is characterized by its fantastic way of fishing that is similar to that of the Atlantic gannet. It plunges itself into the water directly in search of medium-sized fish from 10 to 15 meters high, acquiring great speed. All its populations are migratory.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Sandwich tern


Also known as the lesser auk, the razorbill (Alca torda) is a black and white Mediterranean seabird. It has a thin white line that extends from its eyes to the end of its beak. Its populations are distributed in Scandinavia, Iceland, the British Isles, France and Spain. They live in cold coastal places during the summer where there use their rocky cliffs to raise their chicks. It feeds on fish that it obtains through fast pursuits when diving.

Learn more about the sad fate of a closely related seabird with our article on why the great auk went extinct.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Razorbill

Red-breasted merganser

The red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) is easily identified by its ruffled crest and is one of the most common in the area. It presents sexual dimorphism since females usually have plumage with duller colors , similar to both male and female juveniles. It reproduces in mountainous areas as well as on marine coasts, archipelagos and lakes that have abundant vegetation. It feeds mainly on fish such as salmon, perch and carp.

Discover more about the habitats of Mediterranean seabirds with our article on what is an aquatic ecosystem?

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - Red-breasted merganser

European storm petrel

The European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) is a small seabird (likely the smallest in Europe) with a dark color. It has fast, erratic flight that follows the surface of the ocean. Their diet is based on small crustaceans, cephalopods, jellyfish and organic matter. It nests in rocky areas that are difficult to access, producing a single annual lay. Its main conservation problem is associated with colony predation by rats or introduced exotic species such as cats.

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds - European storm petrel

Arctic skua

Known as the parasitic jaeger in North America, the Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) is a gull-like bird with pointed wings and a hooked beak. It is a migratory species. It is known for its aggressive behavior towards other species of seabirds, which it can attack to steal food. This is a feeding behavior known as kleptoparasitism. During the reproductive season it is usually very territorial and defends its nests that it builds in the tundra or in herbaceous meadows in arctic areas.

Discover more about the habitat of this type of Mediterranean seabird with our article on what is a tundra ecosystem?

Types of Mediterranean Seabirds -  Arctic skua

If you want to read similar articles to Types of Mediterranean Seabirds, we recommend you visit our Wild animals category.

  • SEO/BirdLife 2019. Guide to seabirds of the Iberian Mediterranean and the Balearic Islands: support for fishing tourism. ZEPAMED II Project of the High Tide Program - SEO/BirdLife. Retrieved from: https://www.programapleamar.es/sites/default/files/guia_aves_marinas_pesca-turismo_zepamedii_seo-birdlife_2020.pdf
  • SEO/BirdLife. Retrieved fromt: https://seo.org/ave/paino-europeo/
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Types of Mediterranean Seabirds