Specialty Pelagic Birds

San Diego’s More Sought-after Pelagic Birds

Status and distribution of specialty birds to help you plan your trip.


Black-footed Albatross

Very uncommon spring and early-summer visitor to deeper offshore waters, most often seen from outer edge of 9-Mile Bank outward; very rare in late summer and fall. (Fairly common out near shelf edge where possible overnight trips go.)





Northern Fulmar 
Irregular visitor between mid-autumn and spring, mostly between mid-October and May; fairly common one year, absent the next.






Flesh-footed Shearwater 
Very rare spring and fall visitor, averaging about one sighting every other year. Most sightings are from October and early November; a few in late May and early June.






Buller’s Shearwater 
Very uncommon fall visitor, typically seen once or twice per autumn between late August and early November.







Short-tailed Shearwater 
Very uncommon late fall and winter visitor; seen once or twice most years, typically between November and early March.







Manx Shearwater 
Very rare visitor, but found annually in recent years in late February and March, typically fairly close to shore.







Black-vented Shearwater 
Common visitor between August and March, uncommon to rare in April, often absent from May-July, though sometimes appears in numbers already in mid-summer. Most birds occur close to shore.






Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 
Very rare to casual late-summer and autumn visitor, August-early October, with perhaps one sighting every other year, mostly associated with large storm-petrel rafts.






Leach’s Storm-Petrel 
Light-rumped, dark-rumped, and intermediate birds are found in very small numbers on many trips to deeper water (beyond 9-Mile Bank) between June and October.






Ashy Storm-Petrel 
Formerly very rare, during the past several years it has become a very uncommon but regular visitor in small numbers to deeper water (beyond 9-Mile Bank) between May and October.







Black Storm-Petrel 
Regular visitor, uncommon to very common, between late April and mid-October. Large numbers are found in autumn in storm-petrel rafts.






Least Storm-Petrel 
A post-breeding visitor from Mexico, it is found only during late summer and early autumn. Has become reliable locally in good numbers when large storm-petrel rafts are found (mostly at 30-Mile Bank) between early September and mid-October; a few lone individuals are seen sometimes as early as mid-August.





Red-billed Tropicbird 
Uncommon visitor, mostly (though not exclusively) beyond 9-Mile Bank, between early May and mid-October, with most consistent sightings in late summer and early autumn. Very rare earlier in spring and later in fall.





Brown Booby 
Previously uncommon visitor virtually throughout year, now becoming more regular. Seen on more than half the trips. A moderate-sized colony is resident on the nearby Los Coronados Islands in Mexican waters.






South Polar Skua 
Very uncommon fall and rare late-spring visitor to mostly deeper waters, with most sightings in September-October and in late May-early June; very rare in summer.







Long-tailed Jaeger 
Very uncommon fall visitor between mid-August (rarely late July) and early October (rarely early November), typically in deeper water beyond the 9-Mile Bank. Numbers vary from year to year.






Scripps’s Murrelet 
Fairly common breeding resident between late January and early June; very rare remainder of the year. Can be found within just a few miles of shore out to the 30-Mile Bank. Nests in good numbers on the Los Coronados Islands.






Guadalupe Murrelet 
Very rare late summer and autumn visitor to waters visited by one-day San Diego trips (i.e., 30-Mile Bank), with most records between late July and mid-October. (Regular in small numbers at this time of year farther offshore near shelf edge.)






Craveri’s Murrelet 
Generally a very uncommon to rare, and irregular, post-breeding visitor from Mexico between mid-August and mid-October, with September being the peak period. Was found in small numbers for many years, then recently went largely absent for several years, then found again in moderate numbers in 2013 and 2014. Occurs from just several miles offshore out to 30-Mile Bank.





Ancient Murrelet 
Rare to very rare winter visitor between November and March.








Arctic Tern 
Very rare spring and very uncommon fall visitor, mostly late April – early June and (primarily) late August – early October, with a few as early as late July and as late as early November.







Sabine’s Gull 
Very uncommon spring and uncommon fall visitor, with same date-span as for Arctic Tern.