Seabirds & Shorebirds


Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is located along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route for birds, and acts as a stopover during both northern (April through May) and southern (September through December) migrations. In addition, the diversity of habitats on the Channel Islands provide breeding and nesting sites for many species and large numbers of seabirds, which then forage in sanctuary waters.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) flying over Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Robert Schwemmer, NOAA ONMS.
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) flying over Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Robert Schwemmer, NOAA ONMS.

Sandy beaches provide foraging and resting habitat for a number of shorebirds including Black-Bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), Long-billed Curlew (N. americanus), gulls, and Sanderlings (Calidris alba). The upland portions of the beach provide kelp deposits that attract invertebrates where Black and Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala and Arenaria interpres), Dowitchers, and other shorebird species forage.

Caves and crevices provide nest habitat for Xantus’s Murrelets (now split into Scripp’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi) and Guadalupe murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus)) and Ashy Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma homochroa), while Cassin’s Auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) dig burrows in seaside cliffs.

The Channel Islands has 19 breeding species, four of which have been granted special status under federal or California state law: California Least Tern (Sternula antillarumi), Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Guadalupe Murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus) and Scripp’s Murrelet.

Guadalupe Murrelet
Fig 1. Guadalupe Murrelet nesting in a crevice Photo: Darrell Whitworth

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Project Database


Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP)

The Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) research program aims to understand the migration patterns of large predators in the North Pacific basin and how these animals act and interact in their open ocean habitats. By using satellite tagging techniques, TOPP researchers follow the movements of different species across multiple trophic levels (i.e., the food web) and in relation to physical oceanographic features in order to piece together a whole ecosystem picture.