Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Seabirds as early warning indicators of El Niño

Sooty Shearwater, photograph by John Graham

Grant Humphries (Farallon Institute, Pataluma, California, USA) and colleagues have written in PICES Press on using information from seabirds to predict climate events such as El Niño in the Pacific Ocean.

Top marine predators, such as seabirds, are particularly responsive to changes in oceanographic conditions during and other anomalous ocean conditions.  Declines in the breeding success and cahick size of Sooty Shearwaters Puffinus griseus in New Zealand are potential leading indicators of El Niño by up to 14 months. 

Answering the question “what are the birds telling us”? could provide insight into complex climate-marine ecosystem dynamics that also appear to be changing in unanticipated ways.



Humphries, G.R.W., Velarde, E., Anderson, D.W., Haase, B. & Sydeman, W.J. 2015.  Seabirds as early warning indicators of climate events in the Pacific.  PICES Press 23: 40-43.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 June 2015