Surfbird (Aphriza virgata)


[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Aphriza virgata | [UK] Surfbird | [FR] Becasseau du ressac | [DE] Gischtlaufer | [ES] Playero de Marejada | [NL] Surfbird


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Calidris virgata
Aphriza virgata NA nw w NA , LA coasts

Physical charateristics

A stocky dark sandpiper of wave-washed rocks. Note the conspicuous white tailtipped with a broad black band. Breeding: Heavily streaked and spotted with blackish above and below; golden scapulars. Winter:
Solid gray above and across breast. Bill short, yellow at base; legs yellowish.

Listen to the sound of Surfbird


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 48 cm wingspan max.: 50 cm
size min.: 24 cm size max.: 26 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America : Northwest


Rocky coasts; nests on mountain tundra. During migration and in winter, mostly on rocky outer coasts and islands, also on stone jetties and breakwaters. Sometimes on sandy beaches or mudflat
s, especially during brief stops on migration. In summer, breeds on rather barren, rocky tundra above treeline in northern mountains.


Breeding behavior is not well known. In display over nesting territory, male makes long flight, fluttering wings through shallow arc, then gliding while giving repeated calls or harsh song.
Nest: Site is on ground, in natural depression in rocky surface of high, dry ridge, in area surrounded by very low ground cover. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is simple lining of dead leaves, lichens, and moss added to nest depression.

Eggs: 4. Buff, spotted with dark reddish brown. Incubation is by both sexes, incubation period not well known.
Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Development of the chicks and age at first flight not well known.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, mollusks, barnacles.
In summer on tundra, feeds mostly on insects; also spiders, snails, seeds. On coast (where it spends most of year), feeds on mollusks, such as mussels, limpets, and snails, as well as barnacles and other crustaceans, other small invertebrates.

Behavior: Major feeding method on coast involves removing barnacles, limpets, and
young mussels from rocks with a quick sideways jerk of the head; the Surfbird’s thick bill is adapted for this behavior. Also picks up snails and insects from ground or rocks, sometimes probes in mud.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Surfbird status Least Concern


Breeds in Alaska, Yukon. Winters on coast to
southern South America. Migration:
Limited breeding range, but wintering range stretches from Alaska to Chile. Some can be found on wintering range at least from late July to early May. On our southern Pacific Coast, the only noticeable migration peak occurs in spring, mainly April.

Distribution map

Surfbird distribution range map

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