Seabirds of Virgin Islands

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) Cristina Kessler 300x225
Photo by Cristina Kessler

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)

This slender mostly brown seabird is often seen flying low over the ocean or behind a boat as it rides in the draft of air created by the boat. Booby's feed by plunging into the water for a single fish. After they have the fish they maneuver it into a position where it can be swallowed.
Laughing Gull Maho Bay
Photo by Christy McManus

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)

This migratory gull can be found on St John from April to October. It is one of the summer resident seabirds that use St John's offshore cays to nest. Gulls are usually found feeding with resident pelicans but can also be found begging for food from people. Please do not feed the seagulls -- it is unhealthy for them!
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Cristina Kessler 300x212
Photo by Cristina Kessler

Magnificent Frigatebird (fregata magnificens)

This large seabird with a scissor tail has the ability to forage over vast distances by getting boosts from thermals caused by warm rising air in cumulus clouds. Even though they are seabirds they cannot float in the water because they lack the water proofing that other seabirds have. Frigates get most of their food by plucking it from the ocean surface with their long hooked bills or by stealing it from other birds, hence the name man-of-war bird -- like a pirate.
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) Jayne Schaeffer
Brown Pelican Photo by Jayne Schaeffer

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

The brown pelican is a common sight at most beaches. This large, mostly brown sea bird is usually found in flocks where it feeds on large schools of baitfish. When pelicans hit the water with their bill open they scoop up both seawater and many fish. Then you will notice they drain out the water and toss their head back swallowing only the fish. Pelicans were once on the endangered species list, but they have recently been removed because most populations have recovered.

Last updated: October 28, 2021

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St. John, VI 00830


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