Skip to main content

See also:

5 San Diego summering shore and sea birds

Black-necked stilt
Black-necked stilt
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

San Diego is not known for its summer birding, especially when it comes to shore and sea birds. The best birding in this area takes place in the fall, winter, and spring when birds are either migrating or spending the winter. However, there are a few shore and sea birds that not only spend the summer in San Diego, but sometimes even breed here. Some of these birds are year-round residents, some are just summer visitors. Here’s a list of five species that one can regularly see in the summer.

Black-necked stilt is one of San Diego's summering shorebirds
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Black-necked stilt: While black-necked stilts are common all year in San Diego, they are one of the few shorebirds that regularly breed in the area. These long-legged, black and white shorebirds can be found breeding along the shore, usually where there are open mud-flats with occasional cover for the chicks. Once the chicks hatch, they can often be seen following the parents around in the open.

American Avocet: This is another shorebird that lives year-round in San Diego and regularly breeds here. Like the stilt, they prefer open mudflats with some cover for their chicks. Stilts and avocets can often be seen feeding in the same area and their chicks look a lot alike.

Terns: While there are terns in San Diego all year long, several species come to the San Diego area to breed. These include least terns, elegant terns and gull-billed terns. Other terns such as Forster’s and Caspian terns also live and breed in San Diego, but are often present during other times of the year.

Western gulls: The large western gull is a common species all year up and down the California coast. But, it is the only gull that breeds in San Diego. Other species of gulls, particularly non-breeding California gulls, will spend the summer in San Diego, but travel inland when they are old enough to breed at about four years of age.

Snowy Plovers: Snowy plovers are one of only two plovers who regularly breed in the San Diego area. The other plover that breeds here is the killdeer. Snowy plovers prefer sandy shores, like those in the South Bay and Imperial Beach, to raise their chicks. Unfortunately, their need to use the beach for breeding often means the birds come into conflict with human beach users.

While the birding is light during the summer in the San Diego area, there are still a few birds that can be found if one was interesting in looking.