Black-footed Albatross offshore downtown San Diego 7 Mar 2010 (c) Matt Sadowski
The Realm Of The Albatross
At the continental shelf break in 1000 fathom waters, Laysan and Black-footed Albatross are regular in Southern California. Short-tailed Albatross has been seen in SoCal deep water three times since 2002. These waters are outside the range of day trips with the notable exception of the Condor Express from Santa Barbara. Live-aboards that spend even more time in deep water are Grande and Searcher.
Laysan Albatross 7 Mar 2010 near the Los Coronados Islands 5 miles south of San Diego waters (c) Steve N.G. Howell
Short-tailed Albatross Once common year round in SoCal. Population decimated by plume hunters; it hovered on the edge of extinction from 1933 - 1950. Gradual recovery began in the second half of the 20th century. From 1898 to 1977 there were no well-supported records for California, but 11 accumulated from 1977 to 2002 (Unitt, 2004). The first of the century was seen 90 miles west of San Diego - Searcher and Grande territory - on 28 Aug 1977 (Roberson website). 26 records accepted 1977 - 2008 by the CBRC, 14 since 2005 (Western Birds: Volume 41, No. 3).
2002: One seen near Santa Barbara Island - Searcher territory - 19 Feb to 22 Mar, 2002 (Unitt, 2004).
2005: A single immature was at Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz Island Santa Barbara - Searcher territory - 5 Jul 2005 (McGrath & Feenstra, 2005 and Iliff, et al, 2007).
2006: One found recently dead at Morro Bay 5 Aug 2006 (McCaskie & Garrett, 2007). One immature 16 km sw of Morro Bay 19 Apr 2006 (McCaskie & Garrett, 2006).
2007: One first-year photographed (accepted by CBRC) 230 nm sw San Nicholas Island 16 Jan 2007 (Sheffield, L., pers comm).
2008: One 3.8 miles west of Pt Pinos (Monterey) Mar 22. One 12.7 miles west of N Farallon Island Apr 11. One at the Cordell Bank on Aug 8. One near the Cordell Bank on Dec 29.
2010: One photographed at Bodega Bay 20 Nov (Todd McGrath, CalBirds).
Laysan Albatross A regular visitor well offshore during late fall and winter (Hamilton et al, 2007). Most commonly observed in deep water Sept – Feb (Sullivan, 2005). Breeds on Hawaiian Islands as well as Islas Guadalupe, Mexico 240 miles south of San Diego (Gallo-Reynoso & Figueroa-Carranza, 1996). One found dead on Torrey Pines beach San Diego on 8 Mar 2000 (Unitt, 2004). 3 seen near San Juan Seamount 15 April 2005 from Searcher.
2006: 3 seen between San Nicholas Island and the Tanner Banks west of San Clemente Island 16 April 2006 from Searcher. 4 were seen at the San Juan Seamount fromSearcher 28 April 2006 (Compton, D., 2 May 2006).
2007: One found dead at Camp Pendleton San Diego 13 Jun 2007 (Evans,SDBirds; NAB, McCaskie & Garrett).
2008: One photographed at the Nine Mile Bank off San Diego 27 Aug 2008 was unexpectedly close to shore (NAB, McCaskie & Garrett). Three from Searcher 2-5 June in deep water off SoCal were in areas where probably regular (NAB, McCaskie & Garret). Two seen from Grande10-11 May.
2009: 14 from Grande 9-10 May on deep-water pelagic, the first just beyond the Thirty Mile Bank about 35 miles west of San Diego.
2010: One 7 Mar on San Diego Bird Festival pelagic 5 miles south of the Mexican border, 4.5 miles north of North Coronados Island, 11 miles off the coast of Tijuana. 2 from the Condor Express off Santa Barbara May 1. 5 from Grande in deep water off San Diego May 16. 4 from Searcher May 30.
2011: 1 was seen between Santa Barbara and the Rodriguez Dome from the Condor Express on Apr 30.
Laysan Albatross (c) W. Terry Hunefeld
Laysan Albatross Nine Mile Bank San Diego 27 Aug 2008 (c) Richard Hermann
Black-footed Albatross Probably present year around in SoCal deep water; most frequent April - Sep. It is rare closer to shore than San Clemente Island (Unitt, 2004). May be absent late fall and early winter (McGrath & Feenstra, 2005). Seen on nearly every Searcher deep water pelagic April - September, e.g. ten on 7 Sep 2005; four on 5 Sep 2007; six on 5-16 Apr 2005; 27 on 28-29 Apr 2006.
2007: 6 from Condor Express 21 Apr 2007 (eBird). 3 seen from Condor Express between Santa Barbara and the San Juan Seamount 21 July (Feenstra, CalBirds, 9 Aug 2007).
2008: One at the Nine Mile Bank from Grande on 10 May was exceptionally close to shore (NAB, McCaskie & Garrett).
2009: 47 seen from Grande10-11 May including 2 unusually close to the mainland near the Nine Mile BankSan Diego. Three at the Nine Mile Bank from Grande 16 May. 2 around the Channel Islands 16 May. One at the Nine Mile Bank and one at the 30 Mile Bank21 May and 1 in same area 29 May. 4 from Condor Express25 Jul between Santa Barbara and the San Juan Seamount.. 11 from Grande 48-hour deep-water pelagic 24-25 Aug. 9 from Searcher at Butterfly Bank11 Sep. 3 from Condor Express15 Nov.
2010: 3 on 4 and 7 Mar on San Diego Bird Festival pelagic day trips, all within 14 miles of the mainland, two in San Diego waters (one just 6 miles south of Point Loma and 5 miles west of Imperial Beach). 9 from Condor Express May 1. 11 from Grande May 15-16. 19 from Searcher May 29-31. Four from Condor Express Jun 12. Two on the Nine Mile BankSan Diego Jun 17 (Dave Povey). 11 from Condor Express July 31. 14 from Searcher Sep 8-9. 6 from Grande Oct 2-4, one in San Diego waters.
2011: 25 were seen between Santa Barbara and the Rodriguez Dome from the Condor Express on Apr 30. 16 were reported between the Nine Mile Bank and Thirty Mile Bank San Diego from Grande May 14. 5 were seen from Searcher May 28-30 - two in San Diego waters, one in Los Angeles waters and two in Mexico south of the Los Coronados Islands.
Black-footed Albatross at sunset (c) Karen Straus
Black-footed Albatross off San Diego from SEARCHER Sept 2010 (c) Todd McGrath
Shy Albatross The first sighting of Shy Albatross in California was in SoCal from Pt. Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo County on May 28, 1996. That record narrowly missed endorsement by the CBRC with seven members voting to accept the record (Hamilton, et al, 2007). Seen offshore up and down the west coast in deep water. About 10 records since 1996 (Sullivan). One photgraphed 9 miles offshore Pt. Arena, Mendocino County 24 Aug 1999. Seen July 29 - Sep 10, 2000 at Cordell Bank, Monterey Co and 27 July 2001 Bodega Canyon, Monterey Co.
Light-mantled Albatross One record off Cordell Bank, California 17 July 1994 (Hamilton, et al, 2007).
Many sightings contain hyperlinks tied directly to detailed Trip Reports. More frequent sightings may not contain hyperlinks, but still have detailed trip reports with more documentation and locations; click on Trip Reports in the left column.
NAB, Erickson, et al: North American Birds - Baja Mexico reports, edited by Erickson, et al. Published quarterly by the American Birding Association.
NAB, McCaskie & Garrett: North American Birds - Southern California reports, edited by Guy McCaskie and Kimball Garrett. Published quarterly by the American Birding Association.
Status and distribution data (c) 2008 - 2011 W. Terry Hunefeld
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