Common Seal

Common Seal

Common Seal
Photographer: Baldhur

Common Seal Range Map (N Atlantic & N Pacific)
Common Seal Range Map
(N Atlantic & N Pacific)
Latin Name Phoca vitulina
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location N Atlantic & N Pacific
Colour Grey & Brown
Length 1.4 - 1.9 m (4.5 - 6.25 ft)
Weight 55 - 170 Kgs (120 - 370 lbs)
Life Expectancy

25 - 35 Yrs

Main Characteristics

Common Seals are the most widespread of all pinnipeds. They have a body length between 1.4 and 1.9 m (4.5 - 6.25 ft) and they weigh between 55 and 170 kgs (120 - 370 lbs).

They are variable in colour from pale - dark grey and tan - brown with small rings and blotches on their body that are unique to each individual. They have short flippers and they lack an external ear flap. Their eyes are large and set back, and they have close set nostrils that form a "V" shape.

They tend to dive no more than 100 m (328 ft) in depth and the dives last between 3 and 5 minutes, although they can dive down further.


Common Seals inhabit the waters of the north Atlantic and north Pacific and they haul out and rest on rocky shores, sandy beaches and mud flats. They are known to swim up stream into large rivers and estuaries when in pursuit of prey and they frequently choose to congregate in harbours.

They do not tend to travel more than 20 kms (12 miles) from the shore and they do not form large groups like many other pinnipeds. They spend their time feeding at sea or resting on shore.


Common Seals feed upon fish, mainly herring, cod, flatfish, sea bass, anchovy, menhaden, sand eels, gobies, hake and whiting. They will also occasionally feed on squid and shrimp.


Courtship and mating occurs under water but birthing occurs onshore between February and July, depending on location. Common Seals give birth to 1 pup after an 11 month gestation period.

When the pup is born it is well developed and can crawl, swim and dive within hours. For the first 4 - 6 weeks it is fed on its mothers fat rich milk and during this time it grows rapidly. By the time the pup is weaned at 6 weeks old it can be double its birth weight.

Right after the pup has been weaned, females will mate again and become pregnant with the following years' pup.


Predators of the Common Seal include steller sea lions, killer whales, and polar bears. Pups can be prey for foxes and large birds of prey.


There are 5 subspecies of the Common Seal:

Western Atlantic Harbor Seal
(Phoca vitulina concolor)
They are found around eastern North America.

Pacific Harbor Seal
(Phoca vitulina richardsi)
They are found around western North America.

Eastern Atlantic Common Seal
(Phoca vitulina vitulina)
They are found around Europe and western Asia.

Ungava Seal
(Phoca vitulina mellonae)
They are found around northern Quebec, Canada and they live in fresh water.

Insular Seal
(Phoca vitulina stejnegeri)
They are found around eastern Asia.

Interesting Facts

Common Seals are also known as:
Harbour Seal (Canada)
Harbor Seal (USA)

The population of Common Seals is thought to be between 400,000 and 500,000.

Similar Animals

Ringed Seal
Grey Seal
Baikal Seal
Caspian Seal
Harp Seal
Ribbon Seal
Spotted Seal


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