Seabirds Lesson Plans
Glacier Bay Seabirds
A seabird is exactly that: a bird that spends most of its life at or on the sea, which includes the ocean and coastal waters. Some seabirds spend all of their lives on or near water and depend on it for their food; some are part-time seafarers, choosing to build their nests in marshes. Glacier Bay is home to more than 225 different species of birds, including varieties of gulls, kittiwakes, murres, murrelets, guillemots, loons, puffins, terns and cormorants. Some of these birds are more at home in the Arctic tundra or Aleutian grassland than in Southeast Alaska. Glaciers, and the water they produce, drew the birds here, along with long summer days and abundant food.
Seabirds are considered an indicator species and researchers watch them closely. Because they live long lives and mature slowly, changes in certain aspects of their behavior, such as reproduction rates, can indicate or signal emerging changes in the larger marine environment.
This unit invites students to learn more about these important birds, especially those living in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. They will study the natural history of many of the seabirds of Glacier Bay, the habitats in which they live and the pressures put on their lives by predators and humans.
This unit is designed for grades 5-8. Activities and handouts usually will be written to upper elementary and lower middle school levels with some extensions to adjust for the younger and older students.
Did You Know?
Kittlitz Murrelets are seabirds, spending most of their lives on the ocean, diving for fish. However, they nest on scree slopes or cliff faces near the tops of mountains in glaciated regions. Their plumage is so cryptic, only 25 nests have ever been found.