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Sandy Shore & Aviary

Investigate a world of mud flats and marshes rich with life, a place where long-legged birds ply the sands and flounders lie flat to keep from being found. Watch our birds forage for insects, just as they would in the wild, and gently touch the back of a bat ray as it skims along the bottom of our touch pool.

In this Exhibit

Red phalarope

Red and red-necked phalaropes share the same pond in our aviary. You can tell them apart by size and color. Red phalaropes are larger, with shorter, thicker bills and brighter colors. In breeding season, female red phalaropes sport distinctive chestnut-red bellies.

Bat ray

Bat rays swim gracefully by flapping their batlike wings (pectoral fins) bird style—a feature that gives these rays their common name and their family name, "eagle rays." They are found in muddy and sandy bottom bays, kelp forests and close to coral reefs.

Black oystercatcher

Despite its name, this brownish-black bird with large feet seldom eats oysters. At low tide, it forages along rocky shorelines, looking for other molluscs—mostly limpets and mussels.

Ruddy turnstone

You can tell this shorebird by its plump body, black bib, wedged-shaped bill and short orange-red legs. But in breeding season it takes on a different look, with black, white and reddish-brown markings, a white belly and a distinctive black and white head.

Red-necked phalarope

Like other phalaropes, red-necked phalaropes are pelagic shorebirds — they spend most of their lives at sea. Unable to dive, these birds have developed a unique feeding method: they swim in tight circles at many revolutions per minute, which brings plankton to the surface of the water where they can grab it with their bills.

The senior willet in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Aviary

The Ol' Bird's Still Got It

You won't bird-lieve it! Our birds reach old, old age thanks to the hard work and gentle love of our dedicated Animal Care team. Learn more about how we care for our geriatric Avian friends and meet our eldest birds.
Meet the birds

Cool Facts

  • Abandoned western snowy plovers are often brought to the Aquarium for treatment. We also incubate eggs, and newly hatched chicks are raised by exhibit birds.
  • Our bat rays don't shock or sting, and you're welcome to touch them gently. Or, get a "bat-ray's view" by looking through our underwater periscope.
  • Mud is the ghost shrimp's favorite meal. It eats a bucketful of earth every few weeks, and you can see them in action in our exhibit.
  • A squishy sea hare can reach 10 pounds. They're named "hares" for their earlike appendages.

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