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Southern California Seabirds

A Relative Abundance Calendar

by Mitch Heindel - © 2002

This is a primer, for quick easy reference;
a guide to when things are here, so you can better plan
and time your pelagic trips in SoCal. I'm often (too often!)
asked what can be expected a given month. So, this is based
mostly on 100 trips I've made in the last decade,
but also the published records such as Am. Birds, etc..
Some sight records and unsubmitted records are included,
when they help complete the picture or otherwise fill in the blanks.
Codes are more a reflection of chances of "seeing it", than actual
species abundance. Area concerned is roughly "Conception to Cortes"
(Pt. to Banks respectively) and out to deepside of continental shelf.
First we'll cover real pelagics, or "true seabirds"
. Generally highly oceanic, island nesters.
Littoral (and often seasonally) marine
species such as Loons, Gulls, and "Rockpipers"
will be done later (in the future).

Abundance codes used are:
C - common - should see many
U - uncommon - could see a few
R - rare - might see one or some
X - accidental - has been seen, but don't expect it

Pelagic Seabirds - Mostly species best seen
from a boat, most only seen well,
well asea. A few are littoral, and seen
more often from land (e.g., Frigates, Boobies).

Laysan AlbatrossUUUUU        UUU
Black-footed AlbatrossUU C U URUC 
Short-tailed AlbatrossXX X   X    
Dark-rumped Petrel   X  X     
Murphy's Petrel X RX       
Cook's PetrelX  RX  X XX 
Stejneger's Petrel       X  X 
Mottled Petrel           X

Streaked Shearwater         XX  
Buller's Shearwater       RUCR 
Pink-footed ShearwaterRRRCCCCCCCCU
Flesh-footed ShearwaterX        X XRRRRR
Wedge-tailed Shearwater   X     X  
Sooty ShearwaterUUUCCCCCCCCU
Short-tailed ShearwaterUURR         RUU
Black-vented ShearwaterCCCURXRRUCCC
Manx Shearwater XX     X   

Wilson's Storm-Petrel       XXX  
Fork-tailed Storm-PetrelX XXXX   XXX
Leach's Storm-PetrelRU CCCCCCUUR
Black Storm-PetrelXRRUCCCCCCUX
Least Storm-Petrel X   XRUCUX 

White-tailed Tropicbird     X      
Red-billed Tropicbird    XRUUCURR 
Red-tailed Tropicbird   ?  X   X 
Nazca Booby    X   ?  X
Masked BoobyXXX XX    XX
Blue-footed Booby      XXX   
Brown Booby       XXXX 
Red-footed Booby       X XX 

Magnificent Frigatebird     XRRRX  
Red-necked PhalaropeXXRUCRRCCCUR
South Polar Skua    XXRUUUX 
Parasitic JaegerUUUCUXXUCCUU
Long-tailed Jaeger   X   UURX 

Black-legged KittiwakeCCCCURXXRUCC
Sabine's Gull   UCR UCUR 
Arctic Tern   RUR UURX 
Sooty Tern     XXX   X
Thick-billed Murre    X       
Common MurreUUURRX  XRUU
Pigeon Guillemot  RCCCCCUR  
Marbled MurreletXX  X     XX
Xantus's MurreletRUUCCUUURRRU
Craveri's Murrelet      XRUR  
Ancient MurreletRR X      XX
Cassin's AukletUCUCUR RUUCC
Parakeet AukletX           
Rhinoceros AukletCCCURX XRUCC
Horned Puffin   XXX      
Tufted Puffin XX  X      

Hypotheticals - Multiple observer sight records (except last one)
very possibly or probably correct (Dream on).

Parkinson's Petrel     X      
Juan Fernandez Petrel X          
Townsend's Shearwater       X    
Fregetta Petrel sp.X           
Bulwer's Petrel       X    

A few notes about the list: First there are incredible fluctuations in
year to year occurrences of many species. Fulmar, Kittiwake, and C.Murre
are common one year, scarce the next. There are many idiosynchrosies which
nothing but extensive text could reveal. Guillemots are essentially only
seen at or very near the channel islands. Frigates and Boobies are better
looked for from mainland shore. Others like Albatross and Pterodromas are
mostly only seen outside the islands and the thousand fathom line. Finally,
the codes are a hybrid of actual status and abundance with actual chances
of you seeing it on a boat trip. This is not set in stone - there will be
changes as I dig up more records, and "reject" others. I welcome comments
or questions regarding the list.

Group 2 - Coming soon -
Not-neccessarily-pelagic seabirds seen (in season)
in SoCal, often on pelagic trips, more inshore/littoral
sps., most common and regular.

Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon

Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe

Brandt's Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant

Black Brant
Surf Scoter

The Rockpipers (not a band - yet)
Black Oystercatcher
Wandering Tattler
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone

Bonaparte's Gull
Heermann's Gul
l Mew Gull (brachyrynchus)
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull Glaucous-winged Gull

Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Elegant Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern

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