Surfbirds Live Up to Their Name on the Winter Range

Ah, those little surfbirds, how they they love a low tide. Low water exposes their winter feeding grounds.

Too busy to notice me

This flock seemed oblivious to anything but feeding. The rocks had a fresh growth of algae and apparently hosted lots of prey. Wintering on rocky surf-swept shores, the surfbirds’s dark plumage blends in nicely. Is it camouflage?  A lot of people think so. And it makes sense, the peregrines that patrol the winter range make a living with their vision.

Surfbirds spend winter days foraging on reefs and rocky beaches

Surfbirds summer and nest in the Alaskan interior but the winter range is strictly surf zone.

Accessible only at low tide

This is an attractive reach of shore and it’s here, right behind me where I approached the feeding flock, that Fall Creek hits the beach in a gem of a little coastal waterfall.

P1090162 (1)
Now I’ve got their attention

On the wintering grounds surfbirds and their common name are a good match. Described from a specimen collected in the Gulf of Alaska in 1778, the scientific description of the summer habitat, nests, and eggs in interior didn’t occur until much later.

Surfbirds depart before a breaking wave, northern Oregon coast
Was it me, or the breaking wave?


Senner, Stanley E. and Brian J. Mccaffery. 1997. Surfbird (Calidris virgata), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:


    1. Me too! It was already on the rock when the surfbirds arrived. As I approached, it moved off onto the sand but as the surf rolled in it flew back into the rock. When surf broke on the rock the surfbirds flew off but as you saw, it stayed, calmly letting the water wash over its feet.

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