Salton Sea Bird Species

Lead CDFW biologist: Karen Riesz

Sensitive Species that Regularly Use the Salton Sea Proper

Black Bellied Plover at the Salton Sea
Black-bellied Plover.
Longbilled Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitchers.
Greater yellowlegs in the Salton Sea
Greater Yellowlegs.
Willet on edge of Salton Sea
Burrowing Owl near burrow
Burrowing Owl.
  • American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
    • SSC
    • 33% of the North American population winters at the Salton Sea
  • California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus)
    • FD, SD, FP
    • Post-breeding visitor to the Salton Sea from the Gulf of California population
  • Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
    • WL
    • Largest inland breeding population at the Salton Sea at times
  • Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)
    • SSC
    • Common breeder in wetlands around the Salton Sea
  • White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)
    • WL
    • Common returning visitor; irregularly breeds at and around the Salton Sea
  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
    • SSC
    • Summer and fall visitor at the Salton Sea
  • Brant (Branta bernicla)
    • SSC
    • Spring transient at the Salton Sea
  • Redhead (Aythya americana)
    • SSC
    • Breeding resident in wetlands around the Salton Sea
  • White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus)
    • FP
    • Migrant and visitor; rarely breeds around the Salton Sea
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
    • WL
    • Returning visitor to the Salton Sea
  • California Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus)
    • ST, FP
    • Breeds in wetlands adjacent to the Salton Sea
  • Yuma Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis)
    • FE, ST, FP
    • Breeds in wetlands around the Salton Sea
    • 40% of the entire subspecies is found in marshes around and adjacent to the Salton Sea
  • Lesser sandhill crane (Grus canadensis canadensis)
    • SSC
    • The only regularly wintering population south of the Central Valley occurs at the Salton Sea
  • Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), interior population
    • SSC
    • The Salton Sea is one of only a few key interior breeding locations
    • The largest wintering population in the interior U.S. occurs at the Salton Sea
  • Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
    • WL
    • Summer and fall visitor
  • California Gull (Larus californicus)
    • WL
    • Winter and summer visitor
  • Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
    • SSC
    • Breeds only at the Salton Sea and San Diego Bay in CA
  • Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
    • SSC
    • One of the most important migratory stops is the Salton Sea
  • Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)
    • SSC
    • The only interior breeding population in western North America north of Mexico occurs at the Salton Sea
  • Little Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii brewsteri)
    • SE
    • Migrant at Salton Sea

Sensitive Species that Regularly Use Habitat Neighboring the Salton Sea

  • American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum)
    • FD, SE, FP
    • Returning summer and winter visitor around the Salton Sea; utilizes various habitat types
  • Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus)
    • FPL, SSC
    • A significant proportion of the North American wintering population occurs in the agricultural fields of the Imperial Valley
  • Long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus)
    • WL
    • Common transient and winter visitor in agricultural fields
  • Western burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
    • SSC
    • Around 70% of the state’s population exists in this area because agriculture provides suitable habitat for this species. They burrow into the sides of drains and canals that bring water to the fields and they forage on the insects and small mammals found in the crops.
    • Common breeder; uncommon to moderately common winter visitor
  • Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
    • SSC
    • Breeding resident; common in winter; utilizes various habitat types
  • Crissal thrasher (Toxostoma crissale)
    • SCC
    • Uncommon breeding resident in desert riparian, desert washes and mesquite bosques
  • Large-billed savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis rostratus)
    • SSC
    • Post-breeding fall and winter visitor; found adjacent to Salton Sea shoreline

Other birds to note around the Salton Sea

  • Eared grebe (Podiceps nigricollis californicus)
    • 90% of the CA population winters at the Salton Sea
  • Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis rubida)
    • 50% of the Pacific Flyway population uses the Salton Sea during migration
    • The largest breeding population occurs at the Salton Sea


FE = Federally Endangered
FT = Federally Threatened
FD = Federally Delisted
FPL = Federally Proposed Listing
SE = State Endangered
ST = State Threatened
SD = State Delisted
FP = State Fully Protected
SSC = State Species of Special Concern
WL = State Watch List

CDFW Inland Deserts Region (Region 6)
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