Puget Sound Seabird Survey

American Coots / Scott Kinsey / Great Backyard Bird Count

Home 9 Our Work 9 Regional Initiatives 9 Puget Sound Seabird Survey

A PSSS Transition

We are thrilled to share that Puget Sound Bird Observatory (PSBO) has taken over the volunteer coordination and data collection activities for the PSSS. This means that the valuable longterm PSSS dataset will continue to grow into the future.

If you are interested in volunteering for the PSSS, please visit the PSBO website for more details.

What is PSSS?

The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a community science program managed by Seattle Audubon that trained volunteer birdwatchers to gather valuable data on wintering seabird populations in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and waters surrounding the San Juan Islands. Together, our team captured a snapshot of live seabird density on more than 5,400 acres of shoreline habitat. It is the only land-based, multi-month seabird survey in the Southern Salish Sea.

The data collection and volunteer coordination portions of the project have concluded, and resources will now focus on data analysis.

Data usage

All PSSS data can be accessed through the Asgard Data Marketplace. Here’s a preview.

During Seattle Audubon’s 2021-2022 PSSS survey season, a total of 216 volunteers conducted 1,043 surveys at 159 sites.

 Now that data collection has concluded for PSSS, we intend to devote more attention to data analysis and sharing. While insights from the PSSS data have been shared for many years in the annual Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) Marine Waters Report, and with a variety of organizations and individual researchers, there are many other possibilities. We have 14 years of data to dig into and we’re curious about the stories contained therein. Science drives Seattle Audubon’s conservation work, and staff and the Science Committee look forward to putting our energy into sharing the PSSS data more widely.

Test your Seabird Identification Skills

The PSSS Seabird ID quiz is meant to provide Seattle Audubon with a standardized way to learn more about everyone’s identification skills, and will aid us in putting together survey teams. There are 15 questions, and should take you no more than 10 minutes.


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.

More about PSSS

Who 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.


Double-Crested Cormorant


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



The 170 survey sites are specific locations established by Seattle Audubon. Nearly all are located on publicly-accessible saltwater shoreline.




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.

Past Media Coverage

Oil Spill Response Program

In 2018, Seattle Audubon established an oil spill “observe and report” response program to be implemented at PSSS sites. This program puts PSSS observers’ local knowledge and familiarity with birds and the PSSS protocols into action to provide additional information during the early stages of a catastrophic oil spill. We train all active volunteers to conduct oil presence surveys and ad-hoc PSS surveys in the event of an oil spill. To learn more about the program, please view our Oil Spill Response Manual and materials under the Toolkit.