Seabirds

photo of sea lions
Black-footed albatross Photo: NOAA

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary's food-rich waters make it a major feeding destination for thousands of local and highly migratory seabirds.

cassins auklet
Black-footed albatross Photo: NOAA

Nearly 70 bird species have been observed in the sanctuary. During the upwelling season, the highest numbers of seabirds in the central portion of the California Current are found in the Cordell Bank region, south along the Farallon Ridge, and in and around Monterey Bay.

The majority of seabird species observed are seasonal visitors to the sanctuary. Some species breed in areas such as New Zealand (sooty and Buller's shearwaters), Chile (pink-footed shearwaters) and Alaska (northern fulmars) and then migrate here to feed during their non-breeding season.

Black-footed albatrosses breed thousands of miles from the Cordell Bank region, yet still rely on the sanctuary's rich food resources to feed its young. This amazing feat was documented in a study using satellite tags; it showed that albatrosses nesting on Tern Island in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands "commute" to Cordell Bank to gather food for their chicks.

Permanent resident bird species nest on the nearby Farallon Islands and in the Point Reyes area and feed in Cordell Bank waters.

cassins auklet
Cassin's auklet Photo: NOAA

More than 20,000 Cassin's auklets, which are local breeders, have been counted in the sanctuary in a single day. They come to feed in Cordell Bank waters throughout the year and are one of the most numerous seabirds found in the sanctuary when krill is present (however they can be nonexistent in the absence of krill).

For more information on seabirds within Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the research being conducted on this topic, please visit the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN).

Learn more about other seabirds at Cordell Bank by taking a virtual boat trip.

Produced prior to the expansion of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the (now "Greater") Farallones national marine sanctuaries in 2015.