Seasons of Wildlife

Weather and wildlife dictate island rhythms.  The year is divided into three biological seasons.

  • Winter

    Elephant Seal

    From December through February fierce storms, up to 50-knot winds, and 25 foot seas pummel the islands.  Rain or shine, biologists track the hundreds of pupping elephant seals.  Missing from the islands for over 100 years, elephant seals returned in 1959 and have been breeding on the refuge since 1972.  The first pup of the season is usually born around Christmas!

  • Spring & Summer

    Chick in hand

    March ushers in the seabird breeding season, which lasts into August.  The long days are filled with biological monitoring; population counts, diet assessments, nest checks, and chick weighing.  Weather is often windy and foggy.  During the infrequent calm nights, biologists can mist-net storm-petrels and rhinoceros auklets for banding.


  • Fall

    Yellow Warbler

    From September to November biological monitoring focuses on transient wildlife populations:  bats, butterflies, cetaceans, and songbirds are counted, the latter includes an amazing variety of off-course migrants.  Many bird species never before recorded in California were seen first on Farallon Islands.  White sharks, attracted to Farallon waters by the abundant seal population, are most numerous in fall, and biologists study their populations and predatory behavior from vantage points on the refuge.

  • Maintenance Season

    Tim Kask on Repairing Roof

    Our calmest and clearest weather generally occurs in the fall.  This, together with a diminished and less sensitive wildlife population, makes it an ideal time for the "4th Farallon Season" - the Maintenance Season.  Fall is a time for repairing facilities and conducting habitat restoration projects such as non-native plant control.