Birch Aquarium is for the Birds!

Birch Aquarium at Scripps isn’t just a great place to see fascinating fish.

Last Thursday, an enthusiastic group met outside our doors long before we opened to the public. These eager early-morning visitors were decked out in binoculars, field guides, and scopes. Their goal: bird watching.

Black Phoebe. Photo By Nigella Hillgarth

The group was part of the San Diego Audubon’s 16th Annual Bird Festival, an event that attracts hundreds of birders to the city to seek out some of the 500 species that call San Diego home. Birch Aquarium and its surrounding habitats were a featured field trip for participants.

Visiting birders enjoyed different native habitats surrounding the aquarium and were treated to a “Seabird 101” intro by Dr. Lisa Ballance, Scripps Institution of Oceanography adjunct professor and director of the Protected Resources Division for NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

In addition to our fishy residents, Birch Aquarium at Scripps is an iconic place to enjoy native wildlife. We’re located in the middle of a gorgeous coastal sage scrub habitat, and it’s just a quick walk to the sandy beach and rocky shore habitats of La Jolla. Scripps Pier even sports its own resident Osprey that seasonally perches at the end.

During their field adventure around the aquarium, birders spotted California Towhees, Townsend’s Warblers, Black Phoebes, Oregon Juncos, Goldfinches, Song Sparrows and even a Hermit Thrush.

At Scripps Beach and La Jolla Shores, the group identified Whimbrels, Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Ring-billed, Heermanns, and Western gulls.

The trip concluded at La Jolla Cove where Double-Crested and Brandt’s Cormorants were spotted nesting along the cliffs as well as the occasional Pelagic Cormorant and Black Turnstones in the tide pools, and of course, numerous Brown Pelicans.

Next time you visit the aquarium, be sure to enjoy the feathered residents as well!

Willets at La Jolla Shores. Photo by Nigella Hillgarth


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego