Grey seal Halichoerus grypus

A very large mammal, the grey seal spends most of its time out at sea where it feeds on fish. It can be distinguished from the harbour seal by its larger size and longer head with a sloping ‘Roman nose’ profile. Mainly grey in colour, with darker blotches and spots.


Grey seals are often found on rocky shores, although large colonies breed in the sand dunes at Donna Nook on the Lincolnshire coast: the fluffy, white pups can be seen between October and December. The pups remain on land until they have moulted their white coats and trebled their birth weight; at this point they head to the sea to hunt for themselves.


  • Length: up to 3m
  • Weight: 120-300kg
  • Average Lifespan: 30-40 years


Protected in Britain under the Conservation of Seals Act, 1970. Also protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order, 1985


Found around the coasts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of East, North West and South West England.

When to see

January – December


  • Despite numbers dropping to only 500 in the early 20th century, it’s estimated that there are now more than 120,000 Grey Seals in Britain, representing 40% of the world’s population.
  • Grey seals are known for the eerie ‘singing’ noise they make while competing for space at haul-out sites. This has led to many myths about grey seals transforming into humans or humans into seals.

Common name

Grey seal

Species name

Halichoerus grypus

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Spey Bay or Montrose Basin

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