Recommended books on Seabirds (penguins, tubenoses, sulids, alcids etc.)

Here is a selection of titles that I use regularly or at least enjoyed reading. New suggestions are always welcome! Where possible, there are direct links to in case you want to get your hands on any of these recommended books.

Seabirds of the World : The Complete Reference by Jim Enticott and David Tipling Published in July, 1997 by Stackpole Books (ISBN: 0811702391). Hardcover, 240 pages.

A must for pelagic enthusiasts! Click here to read my detailed review of this book.

Click here to purchase Seabirds of the World: The Complete Reference from (includes sample pages).

Peter Harrison (1983) Seabirds: An Identification Guide. Once the bible for seabirders and gullers, this marvelous book is beginning to look a little dated. Packed with information and focused on in-the-field identification of the worlds penguins, seabirds, gulls and alcids.

Click here to purchase from (includes many sample pages).

Peter Harrison (1997) Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. A high quality photoguide with a useful set of sketches showing the majority of tubenoses in flight. The small size of this book makes it very handy for carrying aboard ship. Brief text describes nuts-and-bolts of identification and world range. Often includes useful information on vagrancy (also noted on many of the maps with a small '*') and general timing of migration. Remains an essential text for all seabird enthusiasts! Click here to read my detailed review of this book.

Click here to buy this book from (includes many sample pages).

Rich Stallcup (1990) Ocean birds of the nearshore Pacific. A Guide for the Seagoing Naturalist. Point Reyes Bird Observatory. ISBN 0-9625918-0-7.

Excellent guide to the pelagic birds and mammals of central California but applicable north to southern Alaska. Well-written and packed with many useful nuggets of information, much on it based on Stallcup's extensive field experience. Illustrated by numerous black and white photos. Although mainly focused on birds there are helpful sections on marine mammals, surface fish and marine turtles.

Cover of The PETRELS
John Warham (1990) The Petrels: Their Ecology and Breeding Systems. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-735420-4.

The first in a brilliant two volume series that form the most comprehensive synthesis of scientific knowledge about the tubenoses ever written.

Prof. John Warham is a leading figure in seabird biology and his mastery and depth of knowledge is demonstrated on every page. There are hundreds of tables, graphs, maps, anatomical drawings etc. Contents include: Introduction: The order Procellariiformes; Family Diomedeidae - The Albatrosses; The Fulmars; The Gadfly Petrels - genera Lugensa and Pterodroma; The Blue Petrel Halobaena and the Prions Pachyptila; The Genus Bulwaria; The Genera Procellaria and Calonectris; The Shearwater Genus Puffinus; Family Hydrobatidae - Storm Petrels; Family Pelecanoididae - The Diving Petrels; Breeding Biology: Introduction; The Pre-egg Stage; The Petrel Egg; Incubation; The Chick Stage; Appendix 1 - A checklist of the Procellariiformes; Appendix 2 - Protein bands in the electrophoresed blood plasma of Procellaria westlandica used as a 'reference' plasma for other Procellariformes.

John Warham (1996) The behaviour, Population Biology and Physiology of the Petrels. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-735415-8.

The second in an outstanding two volume series dedicated to the biology of Procellariiformes (albatrosses, petrels and allies). John Warham is a towering figure in petrel biology and his mastery and depth of knowledge is demonstrated on every page. There are hundreds of tables, graphs, maps, anatomical drawings etc. An absolute must for all students of seabird biology. Contents include chapters on: Petrel Populations; Petrels at Sea: Distribution, Dispersal and migration; Feeding and Foods; Behaviour and Vocalizations: A General Introduction; Behaviour of Albatrosses; Behaviour and Vocalizations of Procellariidae, Hydrobatidae and Pelecanoididae; Physiology and Energetics; Biochemistry; Locomotion; Anatomical Matters; Evolution and Radiation; Petrels and Man.

Graham Robertson and Rosemary Gales [eds.] (1998) Albatross Biology and Conservation.

Collection of scientific reviews of various aspects of albatross biology (e.g. tracking of foraging journeys) with a major emphasis on conservation issues (long lining, protection of nesting habitat). Several chapters deal with systematics. Illustrated with a handful of superb color photos. More details of this specialist book coming soon!

Cover of NewZealand Seabirds


Peter C. Harper and F. C. Kinsky (1978) Southern Albatrosses and Petrels: An identification Guide. Price Milburn for Victoria University Press. ISBN 0-7055-0667-3.

Slightly dated field guide to the albatrosses and petrels likely to be found in the southern oceans from Tropic of Capricorn to Antarctica. Targeted at seafarers and interested 'landlubbers', the book comes with a plastic cover to help keep it dry! Numerous color and black and white photos. There is a series of sketches similar but inferior to those found at the back of Peter Harrison's Photoguide. I think it is fair to say, this book has been eclipsed by a number of more recent guides (e.g. Enticott and Tipling or Harrison).

S. Marchant and P. J. Higgins (1990) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 1 (Ratites to Ducks).

An amazing resource for information about the seabirds of the southern hemisphere, with detailed accounts of plumage, identification, distribution, behavior and ecology. Expensive but worth it for fanatics!

Cover of The AuksThe Auks : Alcidae (Bird Families of the World, Vol. 5) by Anthony J. Gaston, Ian L. Jones, Ian Lewington. Published in April 1998 by Oxford Univ Press (ISBN: 0198540329)

Superb account of all the living alcids. Somewhat expensive but very comprehensive and well-produced. The fact-filled text is accompanied by many useful maps, line drawing, facts and figures. I especially enjoyed the chapters on fossil auks and the evolution of the group as a whole, particular the discussion of relatively recent colonization of the Pacific Ocean. Attractive set of color plates by Ian Lewington.

Click here to purchase The Auks : Alcidae (Bird Families of the World, Vol. 5) from

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