During herring spawning events birds dive under the water to catch herring or gulp down a mouthful herring roe. Next time you see a large group of birds flying, swimming, and diving in great numbers, grab some binoculars and you may be able to spot western grebes, Brandt’s cormorants, western gulls, bufflehead ducks, and scaup- to name a few
San Francisco Bay is an ecologically rich estuary, significant for its large eelgrass beds, spawning areas for Pacific herring, and tens of thousands of wintering waterbirds and other wildlife. Each winter, waterbirds migrate to the waters in and around the Richardson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to rest in the calm waters and feast on herring!
Golden Gate Audubon Society member Tony Brake captures this remarkable footage of birds responding to the large run of herring in San Francisco Bay in January of 2017. These images from Point Molate and Point Richmond show just how important this foot resource is for birds.
One of our lovely community members also shared footage of a Pacific herring run out on Richardson Bay near Belvedere. Mojo the dog enjoyed the view!
Herring depend on eelgrass for spawning. Eelgrass is a true plant (not a seaweed) that grows submerged or partially floating in the marine environment. Herring lay eggs on eelgrass leaves and their young are protected within the eelgrass as they mature. During low tides, intertwined eelgrass beds hold moisture like a sponge. Not only is eelgrass an important species for birds, but for the planet as well! Eelgrass stores carbon in the sediment and prevents coastal erosion.
Learn more about our eelgrass ecosystem, threats, and how you can help. Download our printable bilingual (Spanish and English) eelgrass fact sheet. (Created by Kevin Garcia Lopez, our Environment for the Americas intern with the support of Pew Charitable Trusts)
To learn more about the work Audubon California is doing to protect seabirds and their marine habitats and food sources visit: https://ca.audubon.org/conservation/seabirds-and-marine. To support our work protecting waterbirds and the eelgrass habitats which they depend on, please donate to the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary.