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Wildlife Watching

Cordell Bank is a unique wildlife watching destination at any time. The late summer and fall are the best time of the year to go out to the bank because of the abundant wildlife. From June until November, humpback and blue whales may be seen in the Sanctuary eagerly feeding. Throughout the year, seabirds from near and far feed in these bountiful waters. This attracts birders and whale watchers from around the world, to see species rarely seen so close to shore.

Black-footed Albatross Humpback whales
Humpback whales and Black-footed Albatross are two of several highly migratory animals that can be seen in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Cordell Bank Wildlife Watching Seminar

In collaboration with Point Reyes National Seashore Association's Field Seminars, the Sanctuary hosts an annual wildlife watching seminar to introduce participants to the offshore wildlife that makes Cordell Bank so special.

Check our events calender for dates.

Field Seminar Description:
Learn how to identify shearwaters, petrels, albatrosses and other pelagic seabirds. Find out why and how marine mammals and seabirds come from so far away to feed in this region. Discover why Cordell Bank has one of the largest concentrations of blue whales in the world. Pelagic wildlife expeditions to the Sanctuary will be led by experienced on the water naturalists/marine biologist. As we cruise out to the Bank, we may encounter pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall's porpoise, blue and humpback whales, California and Steller sea lions, elephant seals and numerous seabirds. We will enjoy and learn about whatever the ocean offers that day, be it seabirds, marine mammals, blue sharks, jellies, or more! While visiting the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, we should all have opportunities to make memorable connections with much of the wildlife that make this sanctuary so special.

Classroom seminar is an opportunity to get acquainted with the sanctuary and learn how to identify seabirds and marine mammals that we may encounter at sea.

The Boat trip is a full day excursion. NOTE: The boat leaves from Bodega Bay early in the morning and we will travel almost 100 miles in 9 hours. This is an open ocean excursion and the condition of the surface of the sea may be rough. PERSONAL DISCRETION IS HIGHLY ADVISED!!!

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View past species lists and field trip highlights from Cordell Bank.

National Marine Sanctuary Program's Ocean Etiquette Program

Learn about the National Marine Sanctuary Program's Ocean Etiquette program by clicking here.

Marine Mammals of Cordell Bank Education Resources
created by the Marine Mammal Center

Download Marine Mammals of Cordell Bank information (used during Field Seminar). These descriptions were compiled by the Marine Mammal Center, and provide background information on mammals that could be seen at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

California Sea Lion

Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Gray Whale

Harbor Seal

Humpback Whale

Northern Elephant Seal

Orca or Killer Whale

The Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses

Seabirds of Cordell Bank Education Resources

Download Pelagic Seabirds of the California Current System and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (460K PDF) This booklet is an in depth overview of the seabird groups and seabirds that utilize the waters of Cordell Bank NMS. Learn why are they unique? What makes them vulnerable? What kind of research is being done? What are the occurrence patterns in the CBNMS? And learn at sea identification tips relative to body and bill shape, flight, wing-beat frequency, and overall impression.

Download The Amazing Seabirds of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary booklet. (1.6MB PDF) This 28 page booklet gives a general overview of the unique seabirds that visit Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.


To download a Bird Checklist for Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary click here. (148K PDF)

To download a seasonal chart of seabirds that visit Cordell Bank click here. (76K PDF)

To download a seasonal chart of gulls that visit Cordell Bank click here. (48K PDF)

(All charts and checklists created by Rich Stallcup)

More Seabird Education Resources

PRBO seeks to heighten public understanding of seabird ecology and reduce threats to seabird populations in the California Current System.

Download the PRBO's Conservation Science Reduce Night Lights brochure. (184K PDF)

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