The Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival in Arcata and Eureka on the north coast of California was fabulous! I added several birds to my 2013 year list during my four day stay, including the Surfbird (Aphriza virgata).
The Surfbird outside of the breeding season can be found along almost the entire Pacific Coast of the Americas, from southeastern Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile. In breeding season, Surfbird is found in mountain ranges scattered throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory1. Truly a West Coast species.
I found these beautiful rocky shorebirds in breeding plumage foraging on the mollusks found on the rocks and concrete pillars on the Humboldt Bay North Jetty. Click on photos for full sized images.
It was a beautiful sunny day and they gave up excellent views.
They were hanging out with Black Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala), also in breeding plumage.
Because the Surfbird’s Pacific coastal migration and wintering habitats are along oil tanker routes, they are vulnerable to oil spills.
Luckily much of their alpine breeding habitat is secure on public lands dedicated to conservation like Denali National Park, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Andreafksy Wilderness in Alaska. This bit of security is probably what gave this bird the opportunity to preen amongst the mussels here on Humboldt Bay’s North Jetty.
References: 1Audubon Watch List,