To make a trip to the Channel Islands truly worthwhile, you should focus on birding the San Miguel Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Santa Catalina.
Each of these islands has its own unique set of birds, and they’re all well worth a visit. For more information, read our birds of Channel Islands guide. You may even find it useful to bring along your own binoculars.
San Miguel Island
Over one-third of the breeding birds of the Channel Islands are found on San Miguel Island. This small island has twelve species and over 33,000 breeding birds.
Brandt’s cormorants are the most common species, with other endemic birds found on the island including Cassin’s auklets and Ashy Storm-Petrels. There is also the largest colony of Brandt’s auklets on the Channel Islands.
The sandy plateau and rocky beaches of the westernmost island of the Channel Islands are home to a diverse array of sea birds.
San Miguel Island is also home to one of the largest breeding colonies of pinnipeds, with over 126,000 animals nesting here. The island is home to the endangered northern and Guadalupe fur seals, and more than 90 percent of California’s sea lions breed on San Miguel.
Scuba diving on San Miguel Island is amazing, but the water is a bit chilly compared to other locations. To ensure your safety, you should bring a mask, snorkel, and other diving equipment.
The San Miguel Island pinnacles stretch from 20 feet to 200 feet on some walls, and seals are commonly sighted close to the shore. The waters of San Miguel Island are also renowned for the abundance of marine life, including a large population of gannets.
Before the islands were discovered, the Chumash Indians lived on the northern Channel Islands. They were present for as long as 11,000 years ago and were also responsible for the development of the Santa Rosa National Park.
In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed San Miguel and named the island La Posesion. The island is thought to be the burial site of Cabrillo. As a result, the island is now mostly uninhabited and protected by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy.
You might be surprised to learn that Anacapa Island is a volcanic island located eleven miles off the coast of Port Hueneme, California. It is part of Ventura County.
Anacapa Island is comprised of a series of narrow islets that are generally east-west in orientation. It is located approximately five miles east of Santa Cruz Island. Located just off the coast of Ventura County, Anacapa is a popular destination for day trips from Los Angeles.
You can experience a remarkably diverse wildlife scene on Anacapa Island. You can enjoy the great migration of the Western Gull from May through July. Western Gulls are the most abundant seabird in the Channel Islands, and their presence is easily recognizable.
They are also natural adapters and do well around humans, allowing you to experience their unique migration style. You will be able to spot them on the island and get great pictures of them.
The most notable wildlife on Anacapa Island is the seabirds, which flourish despite the lack of predators. The largest breeding colonies of endangered California brown pelicans can be seen on the cliffs of West Anacapa, and western gulls can be found on all of the island’s islets.
In late April, these birds begin their nesting efforts, and the fluffy chicks emerge in May and June. By the middle of July, they are already fledging and flying away.
Visitors can also experience the Channel Islands’ natural beauty on the rocky islets of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. Anacapa Island can be reached year-round by boat.
The other two islands are more isolated, and access to them is difficult unless you have a private boat. The islands are only accessible by private boats, so be sure to check out the weather and swell forecast. In addition, Anacapa Island is easily accessible on a private basis.
Santa Cruz Island
If you’re interested in bird watching, you’ve probably heard of the Santa Cruz Island scrub-jay. This vibrant blue bird has an unusual call, and is the only island endemic of its kind in North America.
The bird’s distribution is limited to Santa Cruz Island, but it is known to live for 20 years or more. Unlike mainland scrub-jays, it only lives on one island and may have once lived on Santa Rosa Island.
Many of the island’s species are endemic to the area. Two species of sparrow are found nowhere else, the Rufous-crowned Sparrow and the Grasshopper Sparrow.
Some species, like Merlins, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Common Poorwills, breed only on the island. However, many other species, such as the Hooded Oriole, migrant songbirds, and other passerines, do spend the winter on the island.
The Common Raven and the Western Gull are the most common birds on Santa Cruz Island. The Island has no crows, so these crafty birds have to rely on other animals for food.
Located at the landing dock of Scorpion Anchorage, the fig trees attract many of the local birds. The ravens are especially interesting to watch, as they are constantly on the lookout for food.
The habitat on the Channel Islands is similar to that of Southern California, with rocky shores and muted shrubs. Cold, nutrient-rich water from the north supports diverse wildlife.
The southwest shore has an abundance of productive kelp forests. The Channel Islands National Park is a good destination for bird watching. You can also explore the local history of the Channel Islands. The National Park Service also manages the island, which is home to the most endangered species in the world.
Santa Catalina Island
The Channel Islands are a unique place for study of biodiversity, with their contrasting ecosystems and dramatic seasonal variations in rainfall.
These characteristics make the islands a good living laboratory for studying local adaptations. The abundant bird life on the islands offers strong evidence for this phenomenon, and the limited species diversity makes them an ideal system for studying the relationship between climate and local adaptation.
The island scrub-jay population, for example, lives longer than the mainland counterparts, despite its relatively temperate climate. The island also has a thriving kelp forest on its southwest coast.
The five nearby islands make up the Channel Islands National Park. The marine sanctuary covers the waters six nautical miles offshore.
There are unincorporated towns on the island, including Avalon, and the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.
The low elevation of the islands makes them virtually frost-free and ideal for year-round birding. Visiting the islands is a fantastic way to see the diverse habitats that support these amazing creatures.
There are three types of birdlife on the Channel Islands. The first two are found on Santa Cruz Island, which is the largest of the three and is 21 miles long and eight miles wide.
The island’s landscape is varied, with rocky beaches, steep canyons, and mountain ranges. The bald eagle was reintroduced on the island in 1995 after it was banned in the 1930s due to its toxicity. However, it is unclear how this species will survive without human intervention.
The osprey is also a resident on the island, although its numbers are low. They once occupied the southern Channel Islands and were regularly recorded as breeding residents.
At one time, there were at least twenty nesting pairs on San Clemente Island. It is also estimated that ospreys bred on Santa Catalina Island. It is now listed as a Species of Special Concern by the California Department of Fish and Game.
In the spring and summer of 2017, visitors to the island of Bardsey, Channel Islands can enjoy a spectacular birding experience. A Greenish Warbler, ringed and trapped in the obs garden, sang for the entire day.
On 29 May, a Greenish Warbler sang again, making this the twentyth spring record for the island. A European Turtle Dove was also found in a crop field at Ty Pellaf. It is becoming increasingly rare in Britain.
During the summer months, visitors can spot the breeding colony of the Manx shearwater. Many people come to the island to witness the migration of thousands of birds.
The island is also home to more than 200 grey seals. During the autumn, the seal pups are born, and the Island is home to thousands of these animals. The island’s maritime species include rare lichens and bryophyte.
The Channel Islands’ habitat is similar to Southern California, with muted shrubs and rocky shores. The nutrient-rich waters from the north support a diverse array of wildlife.
On the southwest side of the island, productive kelp forests are found. The birds of the Channel Islands have their own distinct characteristics, but are often a highlight of a visit to the island. They provide the best views of gray seals.
As well as the spectacular birdlife, the island also has an enviable history. In 1979, the Bardsey Island Trust bought the island, and many Welsh academics lent their support.
The lighthouse on the southerly tip of the island guides vessels through St George’s Channel. It was converted to automatic operation in 1987, and it is monitored from Trinity House’s Harwich depot. In 2009, an electric rock band, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, became the first live band to perform on Bardsey Island.