Adventure: Marine Birds of the Salish Sea

During our programs, we search for and identify all the incredible local and seasonal marine birds in our area!

Research: Tufted Puffin and Marine Bird Survey

Marine Bird Survey- Students will learn what paramaters to include on a marine bird survey.

Tufted Puffin Survey - Formerly common in Washington along the outer coast and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands, Tufted Puffins have suffered the reduction and disappearance of many breeding colonies in the state, accompanied by a dramatic population decline. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission listed the tufted puffin as endangered in 2015.

When weather and conditions allow, students will observe and survey tufted puffins on Smith Island through continuous and instantanous count methods at set stations.  Guardians will also observe and record the puffin's cliff-top burrows. Smith Island is one of the last remaining breeding colonies in the Salish Sea.  

Action: Forage Fish Habitat

Take a look at this awesome map! It displays different forage fish spawning areas across the U.S. side of the Salish Sea.


What are forage fish?  Forage fish are small, schooling species that eat microscopic plants and animals that are then consumed by bigger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Examples include sand lance, smelt, and herring.


The species formerly bred in small numbers at sites throughout the San Juan Islands, but colonies on inland marine waters are now restricted to Protection and Smith islands in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (see Figure 2 Recent and historical colonies from WA State Recovery Plan).


Reasons for the decline are uncertain, but may include reduced prey availability, predation at nesting colonies, human disturbance (mainly historical), or factors related to climate change (WA State Recovery Plan, 2019).

A comprehensive examination of puffin natural history, population trends, and habitat status, as well as threats to their continued existence, can be found in the Washington State Status Report for the Tufted Puffin (Hanson and Wiles 2015).

Smith Island, one of the last breeding grounds in the Salish Sea

Forage Fish & Their Habitat

Forage fish are small bait fish that are incredibly important to the marine ecosystem. They help feed many organisms, from birds, to salmon, to whales! Learn more by watching the video below.