- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Scolopacidae
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
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.
- Correlimos de Rompientes (Spanish)
- Bécasseau du ressac (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Surfbird's winter range is among the longest and narrowest of any North American breeding bird. During the winter it can be found from Alaska to the Strait of Magellan, Chile, a distance of nearly 11,000 miles (17,500 km). At the same time, the winter range extends inland only a few yards above the tide line.
- In May, before heading into the Alaskan interior to nest, Surfbirds gather in the thousands in Prince William Sound to gorge on the abundant invertebrate life there. The first specimen of Surfbird described to science was, in fact, taken at Prince William Sound during Captain James Cook’s 1778 voyage to Alaska.
- Male Surfbirds sing and perform flight displays over the nesting area, but studies show little evidence of territoriality. Unlike most shorebirds that nest in North America, their flights appear not to be focused on a single area. Conflicts among male Surfbirds are almost unknown, which leads some ornithologists to speculate that the species might not be territorial.