San Francisco Bay

Protecting the birds and habitat of the West Coast's largest estuary.

Richardson Bay is part of the larger San Francisco Bay. Photo: Alison Sheehey

Audubon California has long been committed to protecting the birds and habitat of the San Francisco Bay and its wetlands.

The San Francisco Bay area is recognized as an international biodiversity hotspot because of the vast number of species of birds, animals, plants found there – many of which are found nowhere else. The bay itself is the largest estuary on the West Coast, and is considered one of North America’s most important. It provides critical habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl, marsh birds, as well as over 500 species of fish, mammals, and plants, many of which are either threatened or endangered.

San Francisco Bay is a critical stopover point along the Pacific Flyway migration route of shorebirds and waterfowl, which number over one million birds at the height of migration, and includes three Important Bird Areas due to the high number of rare and endangered bird species and the sheer number of shorebirds and waterfowl supported by the by and surrounding wetlands. The area has also been recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, which ranks it as being of “Hemispheric Importance” to shorebirds.

Audubon California operates the largest estuarine reserve in San Francisco Bay, the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary, which protects 900 acres of San Francisco Bay habitat and provides a center for community education, restoration, and celebration of the Bay.

Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary
About Us

Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary

The Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary is a remarkable slice of nature on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.

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Eelgrass, Herring, and Waterbirds in San Francisco Bay: Threats and Opportunities
San Francisco Bay

Eelgrass, Herring, and Waterbirds in San Francisco Bay: Threats and Opportunities

A new white paper looks at this invaluable habitat ecosystem in San Francisco Bay

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Sonoma Creek enhancement
Sonoma Creek restoration

Sonoma Creek restoration

Audubon California and its partners are bringing back 400-acres of wetland habitat in San Pablo Bay for the benefit of a variety of birds, including the endangered Ridgeway's Rail.

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More San Francisco Bay news

Crowds of birds and people turn out for the 5th Annual Waterbird Festival
Bird-Friendly Communities

Crowds of birds and people turn out for the 5th Annual Waterbird Festival

Over 500 community members turned out to celebrate the natural treasures in their backyard at Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary's 5th Annual Waterbird Festival

Aramburu restoration 10 years after the San Francisco Bay oil spill

November marks the 10-year anniversary of the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay. With that in mind, we recently revisited our restoration project on Aramburu Island in Richardson Bay that was largely inspired by the disaster. We're happy to report that the birds are responding well to the newly created habitat.

Cosco Busan Oil Spill 10-Year Anniversary Photo Gallery
Conservation

Cosco Busan Oil Spill 10-Year Anniversary Photo Gallery

Thousands of birds died and shorelines were blackened after 53,000 gallons of oil spilled following Nov. 7, 2007 accident. This photo gallery shows some of the damage and recovery efforts.

Richardson Bay Annual closure protects important migratory bird species
Conservation

Richardson Bay Annual closure protects important migratory bird species

Sanctuary waters in Richardson Bay are closed to all boat traffic October 1st through March 31st and in-water activities (including kayaks & stand-up paddleboards, or SUPs) from October 1st through March 31st to protect over-wintering and migratory waterbirds.

A visit to a waterbird’s gas station
San Francisco Bay

A visit to a waterbird’s gas station

San Francisco Bay is an integral part of the Pacific Flyway. A recent visit to a South Bay restoration site reveals birds fueling up for their migration complete with kleptoparasitism.

Seasonal Biological Aides at Richardson Bay enhance conservation and engagement work
Conservation

Seasonal Biological Aides at Richardson Bay enhance conservation and engagement work

Meet the three seasonal biologists and learn about their work on restoration, conservation, and engagement at Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Tiburon, California

Bayside signage approved in Tiburon
Bird-Friendly Communities

Bayside signage approved in Tiburon

Audubon California and members of its San Francisco Bay Committee win unanimous approval from the Tiburon Town Council to create interpretive signs along Richardson Bay. These signs will engage and connect the Tiburon community with this natural habitat, its history and the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary.

Proposed EPA cuts will hit California habitat hard

San Leandro shoreline in San Francisco Bay. Photo: Gareth Bogdanoff

News of proposed budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency bode ill for conservation in San Francisco Bay and San Diego, as two major programs are on the chopping block.

In San Francisco Bay, the EPA looks to cut its entire $4.8 million budget for clean water and wetlands restoration programs. This is particularly bad news, as San Francisco Bay has never received a proportionate share of federal restoration funding.

Last year, residents of Bay Area communities approved Measure AA, which will raise about $500 million over the next 20 years for wetlands restoration. Leaders had intended to use this money to leverage greater investment from the federal government.

The EPA is also proposing to cut the $3 million it spent last year on cleaning up pollution in the Tijuana Estuary down to $275,000. This area is the last remaining large wetland in Southern California, and is an Important Bird Area. Endangered Ridgeways Rails and Light-footed Rails make great use of the area.

In addition to cuts specifically targeting California, we also learned of proposed cuts that will go into effect nationwide, but will certainly impact things we Californians care about, such as gutting programs that test coastal water quality, educate our children about nature, address climate change, and reduce pollution in communities suffering the most.

Please raise your voice against these cuts by sending an email to your members of Congress.

Pacific herring are spawning in San Francisco Bay and the birds are loving it
Audublog

Pacific herring are spawning in San Francisco Bay and the birds are loving it

Herring are critical food for Pacific Flyway birds in our urban estuary.

The hidden beauty of marshland

Before the enhancement (left), Sonoma Creek had "dead zones," where vegetation could no longer grow. Now (right), water is channelled and greenery is returning to the areas. Photo: Google Earth (left), Courtney Gutman (right)

Courtney Gutman got an aerial view of the progress made at our Sonoma Creek enhancement project which we completed in November. Gutman is our restoration project manager from the Richardson Bay Center & Sanctuary and oversaw construction on the 400-acre tidal marsh in the greater San Francisco Bay.

Within weeks of finishing the construction, the team could already see a myriad of vegetation and wildlife coming back to the area, including a variety of small shorebirds and pickleweed, a native succulent that absorbs saltwater. 

The Sonoma Creek enhancement is the first project of its kind on a pre-existing marsh. Before the project, sea water was able to wash in during high tide, but with no way for it to drain, stagnant pools became perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and an imperfect breeding ground for plant life and other animals. To solve this problem, we dug canals to help with drainage of the area. Natural channels can now form in areas that were once stagnant, contributing to a healthier marshland. We also moved about 30,000 cubic yards of soil to create a transition ramp that slows storm surges and gives animals somewhere to go when the tide gets too high. 

Gutman says people are starting to see estuaries beyond their importance for wildlife, plants, and biodiversity.

“Now on top of that we’re seeing how important they are for combatting climate change. They’re truly our natural barriers for rising sea levels,” she says. 

For more information about the project, visit our Sonoma Creek page

Key San Francisco Bay birds

   

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