Western Isles
 Western Isles of Scotland

Seal Pups

Seal Pups: Grey Seal Pup

Grey Seal Pup

Halichoerus grypus

Photograph © Debbie Bozkurt
Balranald RSPB Reserve - North Uist - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
1st November 2006

Grey Seal Pup or Common Seal Pup? Nostrils

It is said that to know the difference between a grey seal pup and a common seal pup, look at it's nostrils, the nostril slits of the grey seal pup are almost vertical parallel and resemble a W, whereas the common seal pup's nostril slits form a V-shape that almost meets.

The common seal pup's nostrils are also close together (the septum is narrow) whereas the nostrils of a grey seal are apart (the septum is wide).

One of the unusual things about seals, pups or adult, is their remarkable ability to seal their nostrils tightly shut during rest.
Seals often sleep at sea, where they float upright, like a bottle bobbing along in the water, they only sleep for about 90 seconds at a time.

Perhaps the ability to seal it's nostrils gave the seal it's name, it is definitely an important ability when the seal dives down to seventy metres and stays under the water for up to eight minutes.

Follow the link to some excellent photographs showing grey seal pup nostrils they also show how difficult it can be to see the nostrils at all...

The nostril difference is harder to see with seal pups than with adult seals, but once you have gained the skill, it is a particularly useful one as often only the head of a seal is visible above the sea.


Looking at our seal pup in the photograph at the top of the page, although the shape the nostril slits form is rather V-shaped, the septum is a bit too wide to be a common seal. By nostril identification, the pup above is probably a grey seal pup.

This is a technique that is probably easy once you know how, or happen have a common seal pup and a grey seal pup sitting side by side. (very unlikely!)

The latin name
for a seal means


Look at another picture of a cute seal pup and try a different identification technique.

Grey Seal Pup or Common Seal Pup?

Pupping Sites in the Western Isles
Head Shape Seal Pups and their Mothers
Size, Coat and Markings Abandoned or Injured Seal Pups
When you saw it  
Where you saw it  



Debbie's online photo album

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