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Surfbird (winter plumage)        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Surfbirds are well-named medium-sized shorebirds that spend the winter foraging on rocky shores and beaches, often very close to breaking surf.   They molt into a richly mottled plumage in spring -- seen here -- and fly north to breed in alpine tundra in Alaska and northwest Canada.   When they return in late summer or early fall, the plumage is a mix of the barred breeding colors and the gray-and-white winter plumage (with solid gray upper chest) shown on this page.   Immatures have a gray plumage with fine white mottling on the coverts.   The flocks wheeling above surf in the bottom two images are mixes of black turnstones and somewhat larger, darker surfbirds, and in the lower image, sanderlings.   These surfbirds were photographed in Mission Bay in San Diego, California, on a rock breakwater structure in front of the Hotel Coronado near San Diego, and on a beach in Pacific Grove, California.

  • Canon 1D Mk. II, 1D3, 1D4 or R5; 500 mm f4 IS lens plus 2X converter, or 800 mm IS lens, some with 1.4X converter; many with fill-in flash (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2022)