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.

Surfbird Range Map

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.

Surfbird and Black Turnstone

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.

Surfbird Preening

References: 1Audubon Watch List,

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.