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Silhouette SandpipersSandpipers
SurfbirdCalidris virgata
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Scolopacidae

Basic Description

Surfbirds are perfectly named: they spend most of their lives in the splash zone of rocky ocean shorelines—a precarious place to make a living. During the breeding season, these plump shorebirds move from coastlines into barren arctic mountain habitats to nest, turning from dark gray to a dappled black-and-white plumage with rufous accents in the wing. Males give display flights over the nesting area, like many other shorebirds. Surfbirds seem to be more social and less territorial than most North American shorebird species.

More ID Info
image of range map for Surfbird
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Surfbirds are relatively easy to find in the nonbreeding season along rocky Pacific shorelines. At high tide, look for them roosting on rock jetties or other inaccessible sites, often among Black Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Wandering Tattlers. Their dark gray-brown nonbreeding plumage matches the rocks where they roost and can make them difficult to spot. As the tide goes out, revealing invertebrate prey on rock surfaces and beaches, Surfbirds range more widely across exposed rocks.

Other Names

  • Correlimos de Rompientes (Spanish)
  • Bécasseau du ressac (French)
  • Cool Facts