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picture of Humpback whale and Shearwaters at feeding frenzy (Pacific Mackerel jumping out of water)
picture of Pink-footed Shearwater diving for fish
Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) and Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) at sea with a Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
photos: Sophie Webb/NOAA CBNMS

The fertile waters of the sanctuary are globally important to a variety of seabirds. Most are seasonal visitors and undertake long, annual migrations to reach Monterey Bay's rich feeding grounds, arriving here in the winter from Chile, New Zealand, Mexico, Hawaii or Alaska. Large numbers of birds congregate offshore, feeding on a plentiful supply of small fish, squid, krill and plankton. Seabirds spend most of their time on the ocean, primarily coming to land to breed. Many species nest in large colonies on remote cliffs or islands. Compared with other birds, they have fewer young, but live longer than most birds (20-60 years) and invest a lot of time in raising their young.

Ninety-four seabird species are known to occur within the sanctuary, of which 30 are dominant. Some seabirds, like albatrosses, storm-petrels and shearwaters are pelagic, remaining far out at sea where they feed and rest, coming ashore only to breed. Coastal seabirds stay closer to shore and include Brown Pelicans, loons, cormorants, scoters, grebes and gulls. The prevalence of seabirds in the sanctuary changes from year to year, due to fluctuations in climate and oceanographic conditions such as upwelling or El NiƱo.

Monterey Bay offers some of the best offshore birding in the world. A boat trip is one of the best ways to see truly pelagic species, such as the amazing Black-footed Albatross. Two groups offer offshore birding trips from Monterey harbor:

Useful Links

SIMoN: Sanctuary monitoring network seabird information

Sanctuary Site Characterization: seabird information

Reviewed: September 08, 2023
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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