Birds on the Beach

Quick Facts

  • Over 100 bird species can be found on Southern California beaches 
  • The threatened western snowy plover and endangered least tern use beaches to feed and dunes to breed.
  • Shorebirds rely on the sand dwelling invertebrates and wrack community as food sources, making them vulnerable to the effects of removing kelp from the beach via beach grooming.
  • While enjoying the beaches that allow dogs, keep dogs leashed so they do not disturb the birds.
Pelicans and California Gulls. Credit: Dave Hubbard
Great Blue Heron. Credit: Dave Hubbard

Bird species you can see on Southern California beaches include plover species, pelicans, cormorants, loons, grebes, gulls, numerous shorebirds and more. Sanderlings are endlessly entertaining, seemingly gliding back and forth over the wet sand as a wave recedes. Great blue herons stride elegantly through waves breaking on the sand. Seabirds, including pelicans, cormorants and gulls, use the beach for resting and loafing. Pelicans will fly in v-formation, barely touching the surface of the water as they fly. Learn more about common California beach birds.

A mixed group of shorebirds feeding.
Sanderlings. Credit: Dave Hubbard

At the beach you may see a variety of shorebirds poking around the kelp wrack and darting to the saturated sand at the surf line; there is a largely unseen, diverse sand-dwelling invertebrate population as their food source. 

Sharing the Beach

Beaches are a favorite recreational destination in Southern California, but it is important to be aware that sandy beaches also are habitat for many bird species. Beachgoers should comply with the following guidelines:

  • Be alert to the presence of birds as you walk, and avoid disturbing them.
  • Walk around flocks of roosting and feeding birds to avoid disturbance.
  • Respect signs designating sensitive habitat.
  • Stay out of fenced-off areas.
  • Clean up after yourself – pick up and remove trash and do NOT feed wildlife.
  • Keep all pets on leashes.
  • Prevent people and dogs from chasing the birds. 
Dogs should be kept on leashes around shorebirds. Credit: Dave Hubbard