What does hand soap and seabirds have in common?

31 03 2016

It is estimated that several million TONS of plastic makes it into our oceans each year. For me, what this means to the survival of marine birds and animals immediately comes to mind.  Our job, as seanetters, to comb our beaches looking for dead birds and to ponder why these birds may have died directly exposes us to the plight of ocean pollution.  The statistics are staggering:

  • Plastics are estimated to represent almost 80% of the total marine debris floating in the world’s oceans.
  • Every year, at least one million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.
  • Fish in the middle depths of the northern pacific ocean are ingesting as much as 24,000 tons of plastic each year.
  • 267 species around the world are harmed by plastic. 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of ocean mammals ingest or become tangled in plastic.

However, one small U.S. soap company, method (Method Products), is trying to do their part and raise awareness :


dish + hand soap – OCEAN PLASTIC

As a small soap company, they know they can’t clean up the world’s oceans, but they are trying to raise awareness about the issue and use their business to demonstrate smart ways of using and reusing the plastics that are already on the planet. They think the best way to do that is by proving that solutions exist, even at a small scale.

Some of their hand soap bottles are made with a blend of recovered ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic.

As seanetters, a dedicated lot, we are all doing our part in some small way too to collect information about the plight of seabirds and in doing so we too are trying to raise awareness about the health of our oceans.  My hat is off to all seanetters!










ocean plastic

DBQ Answers

22 03 2016

Well, the return of the DBQ was a simple affair with only two mystery birds. The same day of the DBQ, capteagleeyes replied Bird #1 (aka Bird A) is a Black-Legged Kittiwake and Bird #2 (aka Bird B) is a Red-Breasted Merganser.  A few days later, our very own SEANET Project Coordinator, Dr. Sarah Courchesne replied “I concur”.  Lets review some key characteristics of these mystery birds and see if we can confirm their species identification.

Bird A looks tern or gull-like in winter plumage. However, none of the terns have a squared off tail. Most terns have distinct forked tails or some degree of forking in their tails. Thus, this directs us to the gull family (Laridae). Relative to the pebbles on the beach, this gull appears to be a smaller gull (less than 17″ total length). Next, bill and leg color are good clues its identity.  The yellow bill points to Ring-Billed Gull, Common Black-Headed Gull (1st year, nonbreeding) or a Black-Legged Kittiwake. Bird A is lacking a black ring (Ring-Billed Gull) or a black tip (Common Black-Headed Gull) which leaves us with a Black-Legged Kittiwake.

Black-Legged Kittiwake (nonbreeding)


Bird B provides us wings, feet and a sternum.  I immediately look at the speculum (i.e. Secondaries) and the color of the webbed feet.  Only two species of bay and sea ducks have solid white in their secondaries and secondary coverts.  They are the female Red-Breasted Mergansers and the female Common Mergansers. The feet of the Common merganser are deep red in color. The male Red-Breasted Merganser has deep red feet as well while the female has lighter red feet. It appears to me the feet are a lighter red color in the picture. Therefore, we have enough clues without exploring the sternum that point to a female Red-Breasted Merganser.



Red-Breasted Merganser, Female


There  you have it. The evidence points to Bird A as a Black-Legged Kittiwake and Bird B as a female Red-Breasted Merganser, therefore, we can conclude the identification of the mystery birds are confirmed! Stay tuned for a future DBQ right here on the SEANET Blog.

DBQ is back!

10 03 2016

The Dead Bird Quiz (DBQ) is back by popular demand. This is my first DBQ post – a first of sorts?!. Just two birds, one from a northern beach and one from a southern beach. Something for everyone to test their bird identification skills. Let the quiz begin!



Bird A,  found by Caroline Itzler on a beach in January on Cape Cod.


Bird B, found by Wendy Stanton on her North Carolina beach last month.