Where to see seals
Seals can be seen at many places along the coast, here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
The mouth of the River Don in Aberdeen is a regular haul out site for a few seals. Approach from both banks and observe them by the sand bar.
The largest and most accessible seal haul out site is on the north bank of the River Ythan just before it reaches the sea. Park near Newburgh golf club and walk to the estuary then head east towards the estuary mouth; up to a 400 seals can be seen across the river and some will swim over to say hello. This is one of the best wildlife watching experiences in Scotland and is a must see for both Visitors and Locals. Map
Grey vs Common Seals
The East Grampian coast is home to grey and common seals; both are reasonably easy to see at a number of points along our coast, but can you tell them apart?
Grey Seal Phicidae halichoerus
Size: Males up to 2.3m /
Females up to 2m / 250
Appearance: Grey seals are larger than a common seal and have a horse like appearance, with an elongated muzzle and widely spaced parallel nostrils. The female head shape is more similar to the common seal. As well as by size, male and female grey seals can be told apart by colour, the males are a dark animal with light patches, the female is a light animal with dark patches. Young seals are born with white fur.
Food: Sand eels and cod are major food sources however they will eat anything they can catch, even sea birds on occasion.
Range: The North Atlantic; in the east this stretches from northern France to the Arctic.
Population: In 1914 grey seals were close to extinction in Britain, mainly as a result of hunting with only 500 remaining, leading to the Grey Seals Protection Act. This saved the species and by 2000 there were an estimated 124,000 seals in the UK- around 40% of the world population! Whilst grey seals may seem common remember there are still more people in Aberdeen than grey seals in the world.
Did you know? The Latin name, Phicidae halichoerus comes from the Greek word for ‘hook-nose sea-pig!’
Common Seal Phoca vitulina
Size: Males up to 1.9m/170 kg
Females up to 1.7m/105 kg
Appearance: Common seals are much smaller looking with a cat like face, a rounded forehead and a distinct muzzle. Common seals are very va
riable in colour from almost black to light tan.
Food: Common seals will feed on a wide range of fish species as well as squid and some crustaceans
Range: The most widespread and numerous seal found throughout the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
Population: The world population is around 500,000 with around 5% in British waters. Numbers in the UK are crashing with a reduction of 50% since the year 2000. The reasons are unclear; however they could be linked to the wider ecosystem problems that are affecting our seabirds through lack of suitable food. In the past, a disease known as distemper has caused huge reductions in common seal numbers.
Did you know? Every common seal has a unique pattern of coloured blotches on its coat in the same way that humans have a unique finger print!
Note for Dog Walkers - their have been a number of incidents were seals have acted aggresively towards Dogs in the water. Baring this in mind we suggest that you do not throw sticks into the water or encourage dogs to swim at this site.