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Survey Sites

Data Analysis

Birds of PSSS


What is PSSS?

The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a citizen-science survey managed by Seattle Audubon that empowers volunteer birdwatchers to gather valuable data on wintering seabird populations in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Together, our team creates a snapshot of seabird density on more than 2,400 acres of nearshore saltwater habitat. It is the only land-based, multi-month survey in the Puget Sound region.

Learn more about PSSS:         Overview         History/Objectives    Training  

For the 2016-17
PSSS Season


Recent study indicates increase in occurrence of Puget Sound Seabirds

A recent analysis of seven years of bird observations by volunteer birdwatchers from Seattle Audubon Society’s Puget Sound Seabird Survey has found positive trends in several Puget Sound seabird species that had been in decline since the 1960s and 1970s.

The analysis focused on 18 seabird species that are indicators of Puget Sound environmental health at 62 survey locations from Whidbey Island to Olympia. The study found positive trends in occurrence of 14 species, including cormorants, grebes, sea ducks, loons, and alcids. However researchers cautioned that positive trends in sightings do not necessarily reflect increasing populations. For example, federally listed marbled murrelet populations continue to decline across Washington. The research also documented local hotspots for certain species, which may reflect especially important habitat or prey the birds depend on.

In addition, the study indicated that four species were in decline: white-winged scoter, brant, western grebe and red-necked grebe. These declines may result from geographical shifts or prey declines in Puget Sound or the Salish Sea, or environmental threats to their nesting grounds elsewhere. Similar citizen-science data from other areas have indicated that western grebes appear to have shifted to the south, out of the Puget Sound region.

The Puget Sound Seabird Survey monitors the presence of seabirds during winter months when many seabird species are most abundant around the Sound. More than 250 experienced volunteers have participated in the survey since its inception in 2007. At each survey location volunteers identify bird species and utilize distance sampling methods to collect data.

Read the full article and science paper here.

October 1st, 2016


Survey Summary: 2014-15

The 2014-15 season of the Puget Sound Seabird Survey saw the introduction of new sites on Vashon Island (13) and Bainbridge Island (7) and the continued involvement of recently established sites along the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula and Whidbey Island. The project now has a total of 134 survey locations from Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island in the north, to Olympia in the south, to Cape Flattery on the most westerly tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Of those locations, a record 115 survey sites were surveyed this season (up from 67 sites in 2013-14) by 150 volunteers, the highest number engaged in the program to date. During the surveys that took place from October 2014 to April 2015, 35,189 individual seabirds (up from 22,990 in 2013-14) from 58 different species were recorded (up from 50 species observed during the 2013-14 surveys). In addition to the huge success of the 2014-15 season, we published our first peer reviewed scientific paper utilizing the data from the first 7 years of the project. Read the scientific paper, and review the full report from the 2014-15 PSSS season.


Training Dates & Locations 2015:

16th September, Wednesday - Burton Acres Park (map), Vashon Island - 5:30-7:30pm
17th September, Thursday - Deception Pass State Park (map), Whidbey Island - 5:30-7:30pm
21st September, Monday - Titlow Beach Park (map), Tacoma - 5:30-7:30pm
28th September, Monday - West Bay Park (map), Olympia - 5:30-7:30pm
29th September, Tuesday - Fort Ward Park (map), Bainbridge Island - 5:30-7:30pm
30th September, Wednesday - Golden Gardens Park (map), Seattle - 5:30-7:30pm
1st October, Thursday - Fort Worden Park (map), Port Townsend - 5:30-7:30pm

Read about PSSS in the Kitsap Sun



What is PSSS?


Beginning birders willing to commit to learning seabird identification, as well as intermediate and expert birders who are confident with their seabird ID skills.





All "seabird" species: geese, swans, diving and dabbling ducks, loons, grebes, cormorants, gulls, terns, murres, murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, auklets and puffins. Because the presence of raptors can affect the distribution of seabirds, hawks, eagles and falcons are also recorded.

Browse all seabird species here


Survey sites are specific locations established by Seattle Audubon. Nearly all are located on publicly-accessible saltwater shoreline.

See all active sites on an interactive map.




All surveys are synchronized to take place during a four hour window (determined by Seattle Audubon) on the first Saturday of the month, October through April. Each survey is 15-30 minutes in duration.

Read the PSSS schedule for the 2015-2016 survey season here.




Using a ruler and a compass, surveyors gather data that allows scientists to estimate bird density through 'distance sampling'. Simply counting the number of birds in a given location is a simpler approach, but it forces scientists to assume that all birds are detected by observers. In reality, detection of any species declines with the distance from the observer: poor sighting conditions, quality of observing equipment, and observer inexperience all contribute to declining detection likelihood as distance increases. Distance sampling provides a robust approach to estimating density and allow for calculation of less biased density estimates.

Learn more about the PSSS protocol here.



                          Learn more about birds on the SAS Science pages


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