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Seabird Identification Resources

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

On Episode 17 of the Birding Life Podcast in the interview with Dominic Rollinson, we mentioned that we would put together a shortlist of resources to help those that want to improve their identification of seabirds. This list is by no means complete, if you have any other suggestions, please feel to comment, and let us know.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross photographed off of Durban on a pelagic trip
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross


1) Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (5th edition) - The seabird plates in the new Sasol field guide, drawn by Faansie Peacock, must be some of the best seabird drawings on the Southern African market at the moment. Although the guide isn’t exclusively a seabird identification guide, the quality of the drawings makes it a great tool when looking over salty waters. The guide is also the most up-to-date in terms of new species that have been seen in Southern African waters. (conveniently purchase this book online at Wild Books)

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (5th edition)

2) Roberts Birds Guide (Second Edition) – The Roberts Guide is older than the Sasol guide, but it still holds its own as a high-quality guide that is a favourite for many birders. The seabird plates are drawn over the sea to help provide a bit of habitat. The drawings have a lot of detail, and as with the Sasol guide, a lot of the finer details are shown. I would say that the Sasol is best in terms of the sea bird plates, but Roberts is best in terms of the information that is provided for each species. (conveniently purchase this book online at Wild Books)

 Roberts Birds Guide (Second Edition)

3) Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa by Peter Ryan – This is a photographic field guide that only specialises only on seabirds. The book is filled with stunning photos of the species that it covers – the quality of the photos is really good when you consider how difficult it is to get photographs of some o the species that are mentioned. Due to the fact that this is exclusively a book for a select grouping of birds, there is a lot of information provided not only around the species – but also around seabirds in general, as well as pelagic birding. I would suggest that this book works best alongside a field guide since you would then have both the plates and the photos available. What is a big winner with this guide is its size – it’s much smaller and lighter – which for me is a big win when using it on the field. (conveniently purchase this book online at Wild Books)

Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa