top of page


Seabirds are birds that are adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations. Seabirds generally live longer, breed later and have fewer young than other birds, but they invest a great deal of time in them. Most species nest in colonies, varying in size from a few dozen birds to millions. Many species are famous for undertaking long annual migrations, crossing the equator or circumnavigating the Earth in some cases. They feed both at the ocean's surface and below it, and even on each other. Seabirds can be highly pelagic, coastal, or in some cases spend a part of the year away from the sea entirely.

The Channel Islands National Marine Reserve is recognized as an important breeding and resting area for a variety of landbirds, shorebirds, and seabirds. In particular Anacapa Island give birth to the largest colony of our endemic Californian Brown Pelican. 
They go a long way back Seabirds and humans together. They have provided food to hunters, guided fishermen to fishing stocks, and led sailors to land. Many species are currently threatened by human activities (E.g. oil spills) and conservation efforts include the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and regulation of fishing gears.

WESTERN GULL (Larus occidentalis)
The most common gull of the North Pacific coast, can live over 30 years. They are large with a white head and underparts, a grayish back, and pink legs. Nests are located on islands, offshore rocks, and abandoned wharves. Western Gulls are opportunists, they will eat almost any type of live prey and discarded foodstuffs from humans. 
On its 1.1 square miles, Anacapa Island hold an impressive statistic: it is the largest Western Gull rookery in the Western United States. When you observe a seagull on the Santa Monica Pier or elsewhere in California, there's a good chance its first flight was launched from Anacapa's shores.
BROWN PELLICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
The importance of the Channel Islands National Park for conservation of wildlife is exemplified in its relationship to the California brown pelican. This seabird was classified as federally endangered in 1970 and as endangered by the state of California in 1971, but was delisted as a federally listed species in 2009. The only breeding colonies of California brown pelicans in the western United States are within Channel Islands National Park on West Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The preservation of this essential habitat along with the monitoring of this species is critical for the continued health of the California brown pelican population.
LEACH'S STORM PETREL (Hydrobates leucorhous)
Small, dark, secretive birds with forked tails. They excrete salt through specialized tubeshaped nostrils on top of their bill. Their nests are well concealed in burrows and rock crevices on islands. Adults come and go under cover of darkness. They flutter above the waves and pick zooplankton from the surface of the water. Parents gather food for the single chick, which becomes very fat before it slims down enough to fly.
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani)
A striking bright red-orange bill and pink legs identify the Black Oystercatcher. Commonly found along rocky intertidal shorelines, these birds nest in smooth depressions on rocky headlands and islands. The breeding pair aggressively defends their nest and foraging area. Black Oystercatcher feed on a variety of invertebrates such as mussels and limpets…but rarely oysters.
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba)
A chunky pigeon size gives the Pigeon Guillemot its name although it is in the same family as puffins. Smooth black plumage, white wing patches, and Black Oystercatcher bright red legs and feet make them easy to identify.
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)
With a stark white breast contrasts sleek black feathers to create counter-shaded plumage on a bird that stands upright, Common Murre are gregarious, clustering in dense colonies on the flat tops and wide ledges of islands. The birds nest shoulder to shoulder and may be so tightly packed that single birds returning from sea often land on the heads of others to settle in.
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Urile pelagicus)
The smallest cormorant on the Pacific, Pelagic Cormorant have glossy purple-black feathers and bold white flank patches. They have the long, sleek necks found in all cormorants but also show a conspicuous red face and throat pouch. Cormorant use their feet to propel them when pursuing small fish in underwater dives.
BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Urile penicillatus)
Only found in estuaries and open ocean. These colonial nesters make a nest of guano, seaweed, and grasses on the top of rocky islands often in association with murres. A stout cormorant with glossy black feathers and a thick neck, it really stands out in the breeding season when the gular, or throat pouch, is cobalt-blue. Its neck and back have showy white plumes.
DOUBLE CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)
The largest Cormorans of the Pacific, are found in aquatic habitats across North America. Distinguish from other cormorants by thicker necks, a yellow face and gular pouch, and a long blunt bill that is hooked at the tip. They are often seen roosting with wings outstretched to dry. Dense colonies nest on bridges, islands, cliffs, and especially in trees. These social birds make their nests of sticks, bones, and feathers.
CASSIN'S AUKLET (Ptychoramphus aleuticus)
Small, gray-plumaged birds with yellow eyes and bright blue feet. Rarely seen by people, they nest in colonies on offshore islands, coming and going under cover of darkness to avoid predators. If there is sufficient soil they will dig burrows, otherwise nests are constructed in cracks and crevices. Parents bring the single chick a purple “soup” of regurgitated crustaceans. Purple splatters outside the nest site distinguish Cassin’s Auklet sites from those of other seabirds.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Chunky birds identified by a brown back and wings, a white belly, a single black breastband, and a black mask around the eyes. Like all plovers they forage in a characteristic run-stop-scan pattern and pick surface-dwelling invertebrates from beaches and estuaries with an orange and black bill.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
Gray, almost ghost-colored birds with long, black legs. They are common on sandy beaches where they swiftly weave back and forth along the edge of waves probing the sand for small crustaceans.
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
Small reddish-brown and white shorebirds with drooping, tweezer-like bills. Look for them in mixed flocks with Sanderling or Dunlin as they probe estuaries and beaches for mud-dwelling invertebrates.

bottom of page