Seasons in the Sea - A month-by-month guide to Central California sea life

Section contents:

Cormorants: Image credit-Mary Hollinger - NOAA


in November and December

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Diver-at-work symbol (c) Kim Fulton-Bennett This page under construction.
Here are some of the topics that will be covered in this chapter. More text and images will eventually be added to this section. Thank you for your patience.

Seabird events in November and December:

  • Pigeon guillemots and their young leave the Central Coast and migrate toward the open waters of the Northeast Pacific, from Northern California to the Gulf of Alaska.
  • About the same time that the pigeon guillemots leave, surf scoters arrive on the Central California coast, where they will feed in the crashing winter surf.
  • Most brown pelicans leave the Central Coast in October and November, migrating southward to Southern California and Mexico where they will nest from February through April.
  • Common murres arrive to claim prime nesting sites on the Farallon Islands and mainland colonies in late October or early November (though they won't build nests for another six months). At this time of year, the murres switch from hunting young rockfish and market squid to feeding mostly on anchovies.
  • Western gulls, which live along the Central Coast all year long, may begin claiming prime nesting spots at the Farallones and elsewhere as early as December.
  • Many seabirds spend their summers nesting in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, but spend the winter months on the Central California coast (especially on the Farallon Islands, in the Gulf of the Farallones, and in Monterey Bay). These winter birds include Pacific loons, Red throated loons, horned grebes, eared grebes, horned puffins, ancient murrelets, Xantu's murrelets, marbled murrelets, Western kittiwakes, red-legged kittiwakes.
  • A wide variety of gulls (e.g. California gulls, Western Herring gulls, Glaucous-winged gulls, and Thayers gulls, plus black-legged kittiwakes, and a few Bonaparte's gulls) can be seen foraging in coastal waters during winter.
  • During winter, diving birds, including cormorants, grebes, loons, and common murres, may congregate in nearshore areas where food is available.
  • Pairs of Arctic loons overwinter in Monterey Bay, typically arriving in November to feed on market squid and anchovies. Flocks of Pacific loons and a few yellow-billed loons also appear in the open waters of the bay during November, as well as the first Cassin's auklets and rhinoceros auklets (which reach maximum abundance in Monterey Bay during December).
  • Red-necked phalaropes leave Monterey Bay in November, just as red phalaropes arrive to spend the winter feeding in the bay.
  • Many shore birds (e.g. least sandpipers, western sandpipers, dunlins) spend their winters on the Central Coast and are abundant on beaches and tidal estuaries in December.
  • Surfbirds and turnstones are common in rocky areas throughout the winter months.
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