Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The study of wild animals in their natural habitat has become increasingly popular. Viewing of wildlife can be greatly enhanced by a pair of binoculars or spotting scope and a good wildlife or birding guide.
Bird populations vary greatly in numbers and species according to seasons. Heavy migrations of waterfowl, marsh and shorebirds occur during spring and fall. Throughout the mild winter and spring a wide variety of smaller birds and birds of prey are present. They are attracted to the freshwater marshes and riparian habitat along the New and Alamo Rivers. The best opportunity to observe the greatest diversity of bird life is from November to May.
The following list of birds contains 380 species that have been recorded on Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the adjacent Imperial Valley. The nomenclature and taxonomic order used in this list follow that appearing in the 6th edition of the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds published in 1983. Salton Sea NWR holds the distinction of having the most diverse array of bird species found on any national wildlife refuge in the west.
When looking at a bird, pay close attention to characteristics such as color, size, shape, and wing and head markings. Always observe first and then refer to your identification book because the bird may not remain where it can be readily observed for a long period of time. This is especially true of perching birds.
Sp - Spring, April through May
S - Summer, June through August
F - Fall, September through October
W - Winter, November through March
Spring - Some species migrate much earlier than others, appearing in the area of Salton Sea during March, but are none the less spring migrants rather than winter visitors. Their status at this time of the year is indicated under Spring rather than Winter.
Summer - Status indicated under this heading indicates the relative abundance of summering birds. Observers must remember late spring migrants can be found into early June, and that early fall migrants can occur as early as late June, but these are not summering birds. Their status as migrants is indicated under Spring and Fall rather than Summer.
Fall - Some species, particularly shorebirds, migrate quite early in the fall, appearing in the area of the Salton Sea in July or earlier. Their status as fall migrants in July and August is indicated under Fall rather than Summer.
Winter - As indicated above, some early spring migrants may be present during March or earlier, as with the swallows. Likewise, some late fall migrants linger in November. However, these occurrences are omitted from the winter column so as to clearly indicate the status of each species as a winter visitor.
Notes - Information over and above the relative abundance shown for each season clarifies the status of some species in the area.
c - common to abundant, easily found in suitable habitat
u - uncommon to fairly common, found where looked for in suitable habitat, but can be missed
r - rare to very uncommon, more often missed than seen, even when looked for in suitable habitat
o - occasional, normally less than five individuals per season during any given year, but to be looked for
x - accidental, less than ten records for the entire area, and not to be expected
# - threatened or endangered species
o - open water - restricted to the open water of the Salton Sea and larger
lakes in the Imperial Valley.
b - beach and mudflat - basically the shore line of the Salton Sea, but expanded to include flooded fields and other such areas of shallow water and mud.
m - marshes - cattail marshes and other such areas found at various locations around the Salton Sea, along the rivers and canals, and at shallow lakes.
f - farmland - agricultural land found extensively throughout the Imperial Valley south of the Salton Sea, including planted and unplanted fields alike.
s - shrubland - mesquite thickets and other brushy areas. Some shrubland contains scattered trees.
r - riparian vegetation - limited to areas of salt cedar and willows along waterways, and at some points along the shore of the Salton Sea.
a - aerial - use limited to those strong flying species most often seen in the air.
h - houses and towns - immediate area of ranch houses and the residential areas of such towns as Niland and Calipatria. It is in these areas that most of the larger trees can be found and where ornamental planting supports a variety of landbirds.
Abbreviations Listed Under Notes
b - species regularly breeds in the area
b+ - species has bred in the area, and may continue to breed sporadically in the area, but is not expected to become a regular nesting species
l - species occurs only locally within the area
e - an erratic species, occurring in numbers some years, and being very scarce or even absent in others
x - species formerly occurred in the area, but is now extripated, occurring only as an accidental straggler if at all
xb - an extirpated breeder formerly nesting in the area, but with no recent breeding records
p - a post-breeding visitor to the area from the south, being most numerous in the area between July and September
1 to 9 - actual number of recorded occurrences for those species listed as accidentals in the area
y - present year round, origin unknown
For additional information contact:
LOONS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Red-throated Loon 1 - - - x ___ Pacific Loon o o x x x ___ Common Loon o r x o x
GREBES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe m b u u u u ___ Horned Grebe o o x o o ___ Eared Grebe o b+ c u c c ___ Western Grebe o b u u u u ___ Clark's Grebe o b u u u u
ALBATROSS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Laysan Albatross 2 x x - -
FULMARS, PETRELS & SHEARWATERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Cook's Petrel 1 - x - - ___ Buller's Shearwater 1 - x - - ___ Sooty Shearwater 2 - x - -
STORM-PETRELS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Leach's Storm-Petrel 2 - x x - ___ Black Storm-Petrel 1 - - x - ___ Least Storm-Petrel 1 - - x -
BOOBIES & GANNETS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Blue-footed Booby ep - x o - ___ Brown Booby ep x x x -
PELICANS & CORMORANTS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican oa xb c u c u ___ Brown Pelican# o p o r u o ___ Double-crested Cormorant o b c c c c ___ Olivaceous Cormorant 6 - x x x
FRIGATEBIRDS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Magnificent Frigatebird a p - o r x
BITTERNS, HERONS & EGRETS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ American Bittern m r o u u ___ Least Bittern m b r u r o ___ Great Blue Heron bm b c c c c ___ Great Egret bm b c c c c ___ Snowy Egret bm b c c c c ___ Little Blue Heron m b+ o o x x ___ Tricolored Heron bm o o x x ___ Reddish Egret 5 x x x - ___ Cattle Egret fm b c c c c ___ Green Heron m b u u u u ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron m b c c c c
IBISES & SPOONBILLS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ White Ibis 2 - x - - ___ White-faced Ibis mf b+ u u c c ___ Roseate Spoonbill bm ep x o o x
STORKS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Wood Stork bm p x c o x
FLAMINGOS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Lesser Flamingo ob y o o o o ___ Chilean Flamingo ob y o o o o
WATERFOWL HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Fulvous Whistling Duck m b+ r r o x ___ Black-bellied Whistling Duck 7 x x - - ___ Tundra Swan om - - - o ___ Greater White-fronted Goose fm x x r r ___ Snow Goose fm o o c c ___ Ross' Goose fm o - c c ___ Brant om r o x x ___ Canada Goose fm o o c c ___ Wood Duck om - x - o ___ Green-winged Teal om c r c c ___ Baikal Teal 1 - - - x ___ American Black Duck 1 - - - x ___ Mallard om b+ u o u u ___ Northern Pintail om r r c c ___ Blue-winged Teal om r o r o ___ Cinnamon Teal om b c u c r ___ Northern Shoveler om c r c c ___ Gadwall om r r u u ___ Eurasian Wigeon om - - - o ___ American Wigeon om r o c c ___ Canvasback o u o u c ___ Redhead o b u u u u ___ Ring-necked Duck o o x o r ___ Tufted Duck 1 - - - x ___ Greater Scaup o o x - r ___ Lesser Scaup o u o u c ___ Oldsquaw o o x x o ___ Black Scoter 3 x x - x ___ Surf Scoter o r o o o ___ White-winged Scoter o o o o o ___ Common Goldeneye o o o - u ___ Barrow's Goldeneye 4 - - - x ___ Bufflehead o u o o u ___ Hooded Merganser o - - - o ___ Common Merganser o o x - r ___ Red-breasted Merganser o u r r r ___ Ruddy Duck om b c c c c
VULTURES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture af u r u r
OSPREY, KITES, EAGLES & HAWKS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Osprey ao r r r r ___ White-tailed Kite b+ o o o o ___ Bald Eagle# ao - - x o ___ Northern Harrier afm u o u c ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk ars r - u u ___ Cooper's Hawk ars o - u u ___ Harris' Hawk xb - - - - ___ Red-shouldered Hawk - - o o ___ Broad-winged Hawk 2 - - - x ___ Swainson's Hawk af o - o - ___ Zone-tailed Hawk 3 - - - x ___ Red-tailed Hawk af u r u u ___ Ferruginous Hawk af - - r r ___ Rough-legged Hawk af - - - o ___ Golden Eagle x - - x ___ Northern Goshawk 1 - - - x
FALCONS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ American Kestrel afh b u u c c ___ Merlin af - - r r ___ Peregrine Falcon# am o o o o ___ Prairie Falcon af r o r r
GALLINACEOUS BIRDS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Ring-necked Pheasant f b r r r r ___ Gambel's Quail s b u u u u
RAILS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black Rail m b o o o o ___ Clapper Rail# m b r r r r ___ Virginia Rail m b u r u u ___ Sora m c r c c ___ Common Moorhen m b u u u u ___ American Coot om b c c c c
CRANES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Sandhill Crane f - - u u
PLOVERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black-bellied Plover bf c u c c ___ American Golden Plover bf o - o x ___ Snowy Plover b b u u u r ___ Wilson's Plover 1xb - x - - ___ Semipalmated Plover b c o u r ___ Killdeer fb b c c c c ___ Mountain Plover f o - o u
OYSTERCATCHERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ American Oystercatcher 1 - - x -
STILTS & AVOCETS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black-necked Stilt mf b c c c c ___ American Avocet m b c c c c
SHOREBIRDS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Greater Yellowlegs mf c o c c ___ Lesser Yellowlegs mf u - u r ___ Spotted Redshank 1 x - - - ___ Solitary Sandpiper mf x - o x ___ Willet mf c u c c ___ Wandering Tattler m o x x - ___ Spotted Sandpiper m u - u u ___ Whimbrel mf c o c o ___ Long-billed Curlew mf c u c c ___ Hudsonian Godwit 2 - - x - ___ Marbled Godwit b c u c u ___ Ruddy Turnstone b r - o x ___ Black Turnstone b o o o - ___ Surfbird b o x - - ___ Red Knot b u x r o ___ Sanderling b u - u o ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper b o o o - ___ Western Sandpiper b c o c c ___ Little Stint 1 - - x - ___ Least Sandpiper b c o c c ___ White-rumped Sandpiper 3 x - - - ___ Baird's Sandpiper b o - r - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper b x - o x ___ Dunlin b c o c u ___ Curlew Sandpiper 2 x - x - ___ Stilt Sandpiper b r - u r ___ Ruff 3 - - x x ___ Short-billed Dowitcher b u o u - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher b c o c c
SNIPE HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Common Snipe m u - u r
PHALAROPES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Wilson's Phalarope bo c o c x ___ Red-necked Phalarope bo c o c x ___ Red Phalarope o x x o -
JAEGERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Pomarine Jaeger 5 x x x - ___ Parasitic Jaeger o x x r - ___ Long-tailed Jaeger 5 - - x -
GULLS & TERNS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Laughing Gull ob pxb o c r o ___ Franklin's Gull ob r o r - ___ Little Gull 5 x - x x ___ Bonaparte's Gull ob c r r o ___ Heermann's Gull ob p x o x x ___ Mew Gull ob o x - o ___ Ring-billed Gull obf c u c c ___ California Gull obf c c c u ___ Herring Gull obf r o u c ___ Thayer's Gull ob o x o r ___ Lesser Black-backed Gull 3 - - x x ___ Yellow-footed Gull ob p o c u o ___ Western Gull ob x o - o o ___ Glaucous-winged Gull ob o o o r ___ Glaucous Gull ob x x x o ___ Black-legged Kittiwake 7 x x x - ___ Sabine's Gull o x - o - ___ Gull-billed Tern bf b u u o x ___ Caspian Tern ob b+ c c c u ___ Elegant Tern 3 - x - - ___ Common Tern ob r r c - ___ Arctic Tern 6 x - x - ___ Forster's Tern ob b c c c u ___ Least Tern ob o o x - ___ Black Tern bf c c c x
SKIMMERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black Skimmer b b u u r x
SEABIRDS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Ancient Murrelet 2 x x - -
DOVES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Rock Dove h b c c c c ___ Band-tailed Pigeon 2 x - x - ___ Spotted Dove 1 - - x - ___ White-winged Dove sh b u u o x ___ Mourning Dove fsh b c c c c ___ Inca Dove h bl r r r r ___ Common Ground-Dove sh b u u u u
CUCKOOS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Yellow-billed Cuckoo x2 - x - - ___ Greater Roadrunner sf b c c c c ___ Groove-billed Ani 2 - - x x
OWLS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl sh b r r r r ___ Flammulated Owl 1 - - x - ___ Western Screech-Owl sh bl r r r r ___ Great Horned Owl sh xb - - o o ___ Burrowing Owl f b c c c c ___ Long-eared Owl f - - - o ___ Short-eared Owl f - - o r ___ Northern Saw-whet Owl 2 - - x x
GOATSUCKERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Lesser Nighthawk fs b u u r x ___ Common Poorwill s xb x - o - ___ Whip-poor-will 1 - - x -
SWIFTS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black Swift 2 x - - - ___ Vaux's Swift a c - u - ___ White-throated Swift a r - r r
HUMMINGBIRDS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Black-chinned Hummingbird h b r r - - ___ Anna's Hummingbird h b u r u u ___ Costa's Hummingbird hs b u r u u ___ Calliope Hummingbird hs o - - - ___ Rufous Hummingbird hs u o r - ___ Allen's Hummingbird h x - o -
KINGFISHERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher rm r - u u
WOODPECKERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Lewis' Woodpecker h e o - o o ___ Red-headed Woodpecker 1 - x - - ___ Acorn Woodpecker 3 - - x - ___ Gila Woodpecker h bl r r r r ___ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2 - - - x ___ Red-naped Woodpecker h x - r r ___ Red-breasted Woodpecker h - - - o ___ Ladder-backed Woodpecker sh b u u u u ___ Nuttall's Woodpecker 1 - - x - ___ Northern Flicker hs o - u c
FLYCATCHERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher hs r - r - ___ Greater Pewee 1 - - x - ___ Western Wood-Pewee hs c - u - ___ Willow Flycatcher hs u - c - ___ Least Flycatcher hs 1 - - - x ___ Hammond's Flycatcher hs u - o - ___ Dusky Flycatcher hs o - o - ___ Gray Flycatcher hs r - o x ___ Western Flycatcher hs c - u - ___ Black Phoebe hm b c u c c ___ Eastern Phoebe 7 - - x x ___ Say's Phoebe f b r r c c ___ Vermilion Flycatcher h xb o o r r ___ Dusky-capped Flycatcher 1 x - - - ___ Ash-throated Flycatcher sh b u r u - ___ Brown-crested Flycatcher 1 x - - - ___ Tropical Kingbird 2 - - x - ___ Cassin's Kingbird h x - o x ___ Western Kingbird fh b c c u x ___ Eastern Kingbird 4 x - x - ___ Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1 x - - -
LARKS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark f b u u c c
SWALLOWS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Purple Martin a o - o - ___ Tree Swallow a c o c c ___ Violet-green Swallow a u - o x ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow a b c c o u ___ Bank Swallow a r o r x ___ Cliff Swallow a b c c o - ___ Barn Swallow a b c r c o
JAYS, MAGPIES & CROWS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Scrub Jay hs e - - - o ___ American Crow f e - - o r ___ Common Raven af r r r r
CHICKADEES & TITMICE HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Mountain Chickadee 1 - - x -
VERDINS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Verdin s b c c c c
NUTHATCHES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch h e o - r o ___ White-breasted Nuthatch 2 - - x -
CREEPERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Brown Creeper h - - o o
WRENS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Cactus Wren s b c c c c ___ Rock Wren s - - r r ___ Canyon Wren 1 - - - x ___ Bewick's Wren s - - r r ___ House Wren sr r r u u ___ Winter Wren 4 - - - x ___ Marsh Wren m b c c c c
KINGLETS, BLUEBIRDS & THRUSHES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet rh - - o o ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet rsh u - c c ___ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher rs o - u u ___ Black-tailed Gnatcatcher s b u u u u ___ Western Bluebird sh - - o o ___ Mountain Bluebird f e - - x u ___ Townsend's Solitaire s x - o o ___ Swainson's Thrush rsh u - - - ___ Hermit Thrush rsh r - u u ___ American Robin h e r - r u ___ Varied Thrush 3 x - - x
MOCKINGBIRDS & THRASHERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Northern Mockingbird sh b c c c c ___ Sage Thrasher s r - - o ___ Brown Thrasher 3 - - - x ___ Bendire's Thrasher 2 - - x x ___ Curve-billed Thrasher 4 - - - x ___ Crissal Thrasher s b r r r r ___ Le Conte's Thrasher xb - - - -
WAGTAILS & PIPITS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ American Pipit f r - c c ___ Sprague's Pipit 1 - - x -
WAXWINGS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Cedar Waxwing h e u - r u
PHAINOPEPLA HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Phainopepla s b u - u u
SHRIKES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Northern Shrike 1 - - - x ___ Loggerhead Shrike sf b u u u u
STARLINGS & MYNAS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ European Starling hf b c c c c
VIREOS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Bell's Vireo 2 - - - x ___ Solitary Vireo sh u - r o ___ Hutton's Vireo 1 - - - x ___ Warbling Vireo sh c - u x ___ Red-eyed Vireo 1 - - x -
WARBLERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Tennessee Warbler x - x - ___ Orange-crowned Warbler r c - c c ___ Nashville Warbler rs c - u x ___ Virginia's Warbler s x - o - ___ Lucy's Warbler 4 x - x - ___ Northern Parula 4 - - - x ___ Yellow Warbler rh c - c r ___ Chestnut-sided Warbler 3 - - x x ___ Magnolia Warbler 2 - - x - ___ Cape May Warbler 2 - - x x ___ Black-throated Blue Warbler 2 - - x - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler rsh c - c c ___ Black-throated Gray Warbler sh c - u o ___ Townsend's Warbler sh u x r o ___ Hermit Warbler sh u - r - ___ Prairie Warbler 1 - - x - ___ Palm Warbler 8 - - x x ___ Bay-breasted Warbler 1 x - - - ___ Cerulean Warbler 1 - - x - ___ Black-and-white Warbler hr o - o o ___ American Redstart rh o - r r ___ Ovenbird 2 x - x - ___ Northern Waterthrush r - o o - ___ MacGillivray's Warbler rs u - r - ___ Common Yellowthroat mr b u u u u ___ Wilson's Warbler rs c - u o ___ Painted Redstart 1 - - - x ___ Yellow-breasted Chat r b o o o -
TANAGERS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Summer Tanager h - x o x ___ Western Tanager hs c - u o
GROSBEAKS & BUNTINGS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Pyrrhuloxia 3 - x - x ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3 x - x - ___ Black-headed Grosbeak hs c - u - ___ Blue Grosbeak rs u u r x ___ Blue Bunting 1 - x - - ___ Lazuli Bunting rs c - u - ___ Indigo Bunting 3 x x x - ___ Dickcissel 1 - - x -
TOWHEES & SPARROWS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Green-tailed Towhee s r - r r ___ Rufous-sided Towhee s - - r r ___ Abert's Towhee s b c c c c ___ American Tree Sparrow 3 - - - x ___ Chipping Sparrow h r - r r ___ Brewer's Sparrow fs u - u u ___ Black-chinned Sparrow 2 x - x - ___ Vesper Sparrow f o - r u ___ Lark Sparrow fs r - r r ___ Black-throated Sparrow s - - o - ___ Sage Sparrow fs - - r u ___ Lark Bunting fs - - - o ___ Savannah Sparrow f c o c c ___ Grasshopper Sparrow 4 - x x x ___ Fox Sparrow rs - - o o ___ Song Sparrow rm B u r u u ___ Lincoln's Sparrow rf u - c c ___ Swamp Sparrow m o - - o ___ White-throated Sparrow rsf x - - o ___ Golden-crowned Sparrow rsf - - - o ___ White-crowned Sparrow rsf u - c c ___ Harris' Sparrow sf - - - o ___ Dark-eyed Junco sf o - u u ___ McCown's Longspur f - - o o ___ Lapland Longspur f - - o o ___ Chestnut-collared Longspur f - - o o
BLACKBIRDS & ORIOELS HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Bobolink 2 - x x - ___ Red-winged Blackbird fm b c c c c ___ Tricolored Blackbird 2 - - - x ___ Western Meadowlark f b u u c c ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird mf b c c c u ___ Brewer's Blackbird fh u o c c ___ Great-tailed Grackle mf b u u u u ___ Bronzed Cowbird h b o r - - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird fhs b c u c c ___ Orchard Oriole 3 - - x x ___ Hooded Oriole h b u u - o ___ Bullock's Oriole hrs b c r u x ___ Scott's Oriole 4 - - x x
FINCHES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ Purple Finch rh e - - o o ___ Cassin's Finch rh e - - o o ___ House Finch hs b c c c c ___ Red Crossbill hs e o - o o ___ Pine Siskin rsh e - - r r ___ Lesser Goldfinch s b u r u u ___ Lawrence's Goldfinch s e u - r r ___ American Goldfinch s r r - r r ___ Evening Grosbeak 1 - - x -
WEAVER FINCHES HABITAT NOTES Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow h b c c c c
Refuge Manager Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge P.O. Box 120 Calipatria, California 92233 Telephone: 619/348-5278This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Wildlife of Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, California. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated.This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Wildlife of Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, California. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.govsalton.htm (Version 22MAY98).
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