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Marine Birds Phylum Chordates Subphylum Vertebrata Class Aves Groups based on habitat: Shorebirds Diving Birds Pelagic Birds Penguins Marine Birds

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Marine Birds

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Marine Birds

Phylum Chordates

Subphylum Vertebrata

Class Aves

Groups based on habitat:


Diving Birds

Pelagic Birds



Marine Birds

  • They are endothermic- meaning they are warm blooded- they maintain a constant body temperature of 100 – 112 °F (also referred to as homeothermic)
  • They are capable of traveling long distances, though not all types of marine birds migrate
  • Birds that are adapted to flight must be aerodynamic so bones are hollow but are strengthened to form a rigid frame
  • They have a series of air sacs which makes breathing more efficient
  • They have a high rate of metabolism so food can be processed quickly
  • Front appendages or wings are adapted for flight
  • Bones in the wing of a bird are similar to that of mammals with the exception that wrist and finger bones are fused to increase strength
  • Feathers are made of Keratin- the same material as our hair and nails
  • Keratin is a tough protein that is light weight and gives feathers strength
  • Birds have two types of feathers
  • 1) Down Feathers are short and fluffy and provide insulation
  • 2) Contour Feathers- sit over the down feathers and provide shape and a smooth outer surface to the bird
  • a) Flight feathers and Tail feathers are special contour feathers
  • The wing creates an airfoil shape, curved on top and flat on the bottom, so air needs to move faster over the top part of the wing  the faster air movement reduces air pressure over the wing that allows the bird to get lift.
  • The tail acts as a rudder or stabilizer in flight and helps in braking during landing
  • Birds are streamlined to reduce heat loss and reduce friction while moving through the air or water
  • The bill or beak is shaped to match feeding patterns and is a thick horn-like material







Seabirds are streamlined to reduce friction while moving through the air or water

and to reduce heat loss  The shape decreases the amount of surface body area that is exposed to the colder ocean water

Some birds have very dense feathers or a layer of blubber to protect them from heat loss

Special blood circulation to appendages helps control heat loss when in contact with colder water temperatures arteries are surrounded by veins so the warmer blood in the arteries is protected by the veins carrying blood with a lower temperature.

Some of the marine birds have a special gland near their tail that produces a waterproof oil  the birds will use their beak to spread this oil through their feathers as they groom or preen themselves

All birds lay eggs that have a hard calcium rich shell  often both parents will be involved in raising the young

Like reptiles, birds have special nasal glands to excrete excess salt. The kidneys concentrate wastes to uric acid so the bird can conserve water.






Shorebirds- search for food in shallow water on in the sand along the water’s edge

- sandpipers, gulls, herons, oystercatchers, egrets

- will migrate to warmer climates

- live in small colonies, usually near a body of water

- those with long straight bills will use them for poking in the sand for small invertebrates

- a flexible neck allows herons & egrets to quickly grab small fish

- gulls are scavengers but they will also grab clams and drop them from the air to open up the shell


Diving Shorebirds- these birds will dive in the water in search of food but will live close to the shore

- when they spot food in the water, they will fold up their wings and dive into the water

- cormorants, terns, pelicans, osprey, skimmers

Pelicans- have a large throat pouch that is used to scoop up fish water is squeezed out and the fish swallowed head first to prevent being stuck by any dorsal spines

- they have a cushion of tissue filled with air over their breast and lower neck to protect them when they are diving

- Brown Pelicans

- immature pelicans are brown all over with brown eyes

- mature at 3-4 years of age and the neck becomes velvet brown in color during the summer and white during the winter & the eyes turn blue

- they make nests on the ground or in trees

- White Pelicans

- are white all year round, males have a bump on the upper beak when it is mating season


Pelagic Birds

    • -they are seabirds that nest on islands and along the coastline but spend most of their lives at sea
  • - these open ocean birds include storm petrels, gannets, puffins, shearwaters and albatross
  • - they come ashore to rest
  • - these birds are also known as tubenose birds because their nostrils extend in short tubes over the beak
  • - they will migrate tens of thousands of miles each year following schools of fish or drifting plankton


- they are closely related to the tubenose birds

- they are the most aquatic of all the sea birds

- most of the species of penguins live in the southern hemisphere

- they have no flight feathers and do not fly

- they are excellent swimmers and divers

- the flippers are used to propel the bird through the water

- they have dense bones unlike other birds which are necessary to give them the weight for diving

- penguins eat fish, krill, squid and some shellfish

- some penguins will spend several years at sea before returning to land

- they have a thick layer of fat under the skin and densely packed down feathers

-Magellanic, Humboldt, Galapagos, & Blackfoot Penguins are the only species that are found in temperate and tropical climates



Short hooked bill for grabbing,

Eats a variety of fish plus eggs, & garbage


Short wide bill for eating small fish and zooplankton, some birds have a rough or spiked tongue to hold fish

Seen with sandpipers

Black Skimmer

Lower bill is longer than upper, they skim the surface of the water to catch fish


Sea Turtle Identifications

1. Kemp's Ridley  2. Hawksbill  3. Loggerhead  4. Green  5. Leatherback