sbcobirding receives the generous support of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society. For more than 50 years SBAS has helped to preserve the biological diversity of the Santa Barbara area.
sbcobirding This website was created as a resource for everything birding in Santa Barbara County. The goal is simply to promote the activity of field birding in the county and to provide information to interested birders. If you have comments about this website or would like more information about local birding, please contact me.
Santa Barbara Audubon
Channel Islands Access & Pelagic Birding
Channel Islands National ParkSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: eBird:Fee: Description: Access to the Channel Islands is available through the official boat concessionaire Island Packers, and the official airline concessionaire Channel Islands Aviation. Visit their websites for information about using these services and for upcoming schedules. You may find the following web pages helpful for planning a visit to the Channel Islands: Channel Islands National ParkChannel Islands BirdsBe sure to visit Joel Barrett’s website, The Salty Bird - Birding the Santa Barbara Channel and Beyond. Joel’s website is a great resource for Santa Barbara Channel pelagic birding and birding on the islands. His site includes trip reports and upcoming pelagic trip schedules.The most popular island birding destinations are on Santa Cruz Island at the anchorages of Prisoners Harbor, Scorpion Harbor, and the established campgrounds and surrounding trail systems at these spots. County rarities recorded only on the islands and thus far missing on the mainland list include Emperor Goose and Pyrrhuloxia. There are a number of interesting sub-species that breed on Santa Cruz Island including races of Allen's Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Loggerhead Shrike and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. These differ from mainland populations. As might be expected, the islands boast a long list of rarities. Lost vagrants often turn up on the islands during fall migration, although numbers vary from year to year. Santa Barbara Island is exceptional in this regard and the list of rarities found on this smallest island is quite astounding. The northern Channel Islands area is recognized as an Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Birds you might see or hear: Allen’s Hummingbird, Black Oystercatcher, Red-necked Phalarope, Pigeon Guillemot, Pink-footed Shearwater, Bald Eagle, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Island Scrub-Jay, Chipping Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Spotted TowheePelagic BirdingSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: +eBird:Description: Pelagic birding in the Santa Barbara Channel is best during the spring, mid-summer and fall passage of ocean birds. Birding trips are targeted during these seasons for optimal results and the greatest bird diversity, but taking a relatively close-to-shore whale watching trip can also provide a good variety of birds with the added bonus of close-up views of migrating Gray, Humpback, and occasionally Blue Whales and Orcas. Birds closer to shore are those species usually visible from land such as scoters, Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants, jaegers, loons, grebes, gulls and terns. Arctic Tern is frequently encountered in flocks just a short distance off the coast where they are seldom found on shore. In summer, Sooty Shearwaters are common and number in the thousands, and Black-vented Shearwater is fairly common in fall and winter. Both can be easily seen from shore at times. Buller's and Short-tailed Shearwaters are rare but regularly encountered in county waters each year. Be sure to explore the eBird Hotspots for deep water species lists. Occasionally, organized pelagic trips head well offshore to popular places such as Arguello Canyon, Rodriguez Seamount, San Juan Seamount and Three-eleven Bank.Whale watching and pelagic birding trips are available through the following charter companies: •Condor Cruises•Island Packers•Truth AquaticsBirds regularly found in the Santa Barbara Channel include: Black-vented and Pink-footed Shearwater, South Polar Skua, Parasitic, Pomarine, and Long-tailed Jaeger, Sabine's Gull, Scripps's Murrelet, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklet, Red Phalarope, Black, Leach's and Ashy Storm-Petrel, and Northern Fulmar which is irregular but often abundant in winter. Black-footed Albatross are encountered well offshore. Among the more spectacular sightings in offshore county waters: Mottled Petrel, Cook's Petrel, Stejneger's Petrel, Red-tailed and Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown, Nazca, and Masked Booby, Tufted and Horned Puffin, and Parakeet Auklet. In August 2005 a first northern hemisphere record of Ringed Storm-Petrel occurred SW of San Miguel Island.Birds you might see or hear: Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, Sabine’s Gull, Black Storm-Petrel, Northern Fulmar, Pink-footed Shearwater, Black-vented Shearwater, County Offshore BoundariesIt has long been determined by the California Bird Records Committee that for the purposes of reviewing rare bird records in the state, the review area offshore shall extend to the 200 nautical mile limit. The CBRC has also adopted "the nearest point of land" rule for determining where to assign records to a specific county in California around the Channel Islands. In short, it has been generally agreed that pelagic species are assigned to the county with jurisdiction over the nearest point of land. Determining the political boundary of Santa Barbara County offshore is a bit tricky when projecting a county line into the ocean around the Channel Islands. It is somewhat subjective since county jurisdictions only extend three miles out to sea. See the following map for a visual representation: West Coast Offshore Pelagic BoundariesUsing this "nearest point of land" rule, the midway point between neighboring counties around the southern Channel Islands can be theorized and mapped. Since Santa Barbara Island is under the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County but in reality is closer to Los Angeles County, this creates a circular area in the ocean surrounding the island when mapped to the nearest point of land at the mainland and adjacent islands. This area is known as "the donut hole" and many extralimital bird records attributed to Santa Barbara County are from this island and surrounding waters as determined by this rule. eBird uses a “nearest point of land” algorithm to calculate county values for offshore locations and does a very good job assigning checklists to the correct county which are accurately plotted on maps. Island Scrub-JaySeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: +eBird:Description: It goes without saying that if you wish to see the Island Scrub-Jay it is absolutely necessary that you spend a few dollars to reach its home- Santa Cruz Island. It is found nowhere else in the world. It is characterized by its darker blue plumage and larger size compared to its mainland relative, the California Scrub-Jay, which is not found on the Channel Islands. The Island Scrub-Jay is reliably seen around the two common landing points and while hiking nearby trails at Prisoners Harbor and Scorpion Harbor, and in interior “Central Valley” portion of the island. Check the eBird Explore Species tool to find the most recent sightings.Identification articles:•Sibley Guides•Island Scrub-Jay NPS•Island Scrub-Jay BNA