Why Birds Can Help You Find & Catch Fish

Why Birds Can Help You Find & Catch Fish

When most are out fishing, they are looking at the water, trying to find some indication that there are fish where you are fishing. No one stops to look skyward to see if there are any birds. Birds can fish where you cannot even see them. Birds are hungry, they have to eat, so they are looking for food so watch them and you will find fish.

Why Birds Can Help Find Fish

Birds are like nature’s fish finder. They want and need to catch fish more than you do because their life depends on it. The birds that you need to watch are not your ordinary variety of birds like robins, chickadees, cardinals but seabirds. If you should spot a flock of seabirds hovering above the water, there is a good chance they are there to feed on baitfish. The baitfish, in turn, is probably being chased to the water’s surface from below by predator fish. 

Even if the birds are not in a feeding frenzy, they could still lead you to where there are fish. One less obvious sign is when you see them just hanging out along the shore or over the water but not eating. This does not always mean that there is baitfish in the area but it could mean that the birds are just resting after they ate. The birds are in the area for a reason so you should go check the area out. 

The birds may also be dive-bombing a yellow tuna or trying to pick off a flying fish in front of a marlin. No matter, if you want to find fish, then pay attention to the birds.

What are Seabirds?

These birds are also known as a marine bird and are birds that have adapted to life within a marine environment. A seabird differs from other birds in that they breed later, have fewer young, and live longer. Most of these types of birds nest in colonies, which can vary in size from a few dozen to over a million birds. Seabirds have guided fishermen to fishing stocks, provided food to hunters, and led sailors to land. Birds have adapted to a life on the ocean.

Some of the seabirds include:

  • Seagulls
  • Terns
  • Skuas
  • Loons
  • Sea Ducks
  • Sea Eagles
  • Pelicans
  • Albatross
  • Cormorant
  • Herons
  • Storm Petrels

Scientific Advantages of Using Birds to Help Catch Fish

There are several natural advantages that birds have that make them a superb seabird hunter. The first and most obvious advantage is their power of flight. When you are trying to locate fish at a distance or down deep, altitude will give you an incredible advantage, as it does for birds. Any type of gain in elevation will let you see farther toward the horizon but also have a better angle to peer down in the water. Birds soar hundreds of feet over the surface of the ocean and the view stretches for miles in every direction.

birds help find fish

The second advantage is the bird’s high-power vision. No one knows exactly how well the birds see but add it with their ability to fly it makes a pretty powerful combination. What they do know is that they have excellent long-range vision. They are also tuned into visual cues from each other. For example, when a diving gannet’s wings flash white in the sun that is the visual cue that is seen by the other birds for miles around. This is why one feeding bird can turn into fifty in just minutes.

The third advantage is their sense of smell. Some species of seabirds can smell baitfish very well at much greater ranges than a human can. The low-flying species, like the storm petrels, use their sense of smell to detect the fish oils that the baitfish releases. If you see any of these low-flying birds going back and forth in the air like a sailboat, they are looking for the scent. Once they locate it, they will head upwind until they locate the baitfish. The baitfish may be close or a couple of miles or more away. Although they may not feed on the larger baitfish, it is still an indicator of a concentration of predator fish.

There is also a species like the shearwaters that have external nostrils that are tube-shaped and located on top of their beaks that will help them improve their sense of smell. The more important species of birds that can help you the most to catch fish are the shearwaters, terns, storm petrels, frigate birds, and boobies. The seagulls and pelicans play a lesser role.

Using Birds to Help Find and Catch Bass

 Baitfish, as the season goes on to catch bass, start to group together in a larger school, which the birds are quick to follow. If you watch the birds, you will soon have your limit of bass. When you are on the lake and see birds that are diving in one area, try to see what they are feeding on so you know what fish is nearby. This way you can use the right bass fishing lure to catch some bass. If you are fishing in an area and see birds diving down, take time to move to that spot as that is where the fish are and you will most likely catch several there.


As you can see, there are three scientific reasons why birds can help you find and catch fish. It is not only seabirds but also birds around lakes. If you were not aware of this, then next time you are on a fishing trip, look up and watch the birds. Go where they are and you can have a productive day of fishing. Commercial fishermen still rely on birds occasionally to help them find the school of tuna, shark, marlin, and more. They can even help you find fish in the shallower waters off the shore. Remember that whether fishing saltwater or freshwater, birds can help you find and catch fish.

You may also be interested in learning How to Fish a Bucktail Jig.

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