California Destinations

Guest Post: 5 Incredible Places To Watch Birds In California

This guest post was written by Mark Taylor.

You are probably familiar with California’s importance as a habitat for birds if you are a bird-watching enthusiast in the US. There are more than 660 recorded species in California, which is the largest among any other state in the US.

This distinction doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider the diversity of California’s terrain and habitats, from the Mojave Desert to coastal beaches, fog-shrouded redwood forests, inland marshes and the highest mountain peak in the continental US. The state also has 840 miles of coastline, which offers a habitat to a wide range of pelagic birds.

All of these features make California one of the best destinations for anyone who wants to see the complete variety of North American bird species. The only challenge is deciding where to start; therefore, in today’s post, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of five of the most incredible birding hotspots in California’s state. Keep reading to learn more.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex

Situated on the California-Oregon border, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex comprises six refuges. Two of these, the Lower Klamath Reserve and Tule Lake, fall in Northern California, offering a unique view of the local wildlife.

The area of these refuges is primarily developed for agriculture, and its wetlands are quite popular for attracting massive numbers of migrating waterfowl. You will also be able to spot Bald eagles and raptors in these areas. 

Together both of these refugees have more than 200 different species of birds, ranging from swans and geese to more than a dozen different types of raptors and around 25 kinds of ducks. Here is a list of some of the highlights of the region:

  • Ross’s Geese
  • Golden Eagles
  • Tundra Swans
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Rough-legged Hawks
  • Prarie Falcons
  • Sandhill Cranes

You can also spot the occasional Peregrine Falcon, but only if you are lucky because they are quite rare. 

During the breeding season, many species also pass through these reserves. If you visit this season, you will also be able to spot the following species quite easily:

  • Western Scrub-Jays
  • Say’s Phoebes
  • Bushtit, Rock Wrens
  • Sage Thrashers
  • Canyon Wrens
  • Mountain Bluebirds
  • Spotted Towhees
  • California Towhees
  • Yellow-headed Blackbirds
  • Tricolored Blackbirds

You may even be able to spot Northern Shrikes in the winters. So, pack your gear and invest in a pair of night vision binoculars. You may think that they are expensive, but you can easily find night vision scopes under $500.

The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Situated between the Arcata Bay and Highway 101, The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the authentic delights of the Northern California coast. With more than 300 different species of birds, this spot is like a paradise for bird watching enthusiasts.

The best season to visit is from fall to spring when you can witness massive flocks of waterfowl and shorebirds. Different kinds of geese like Brent geese, Cackling geese, and Canada geese are seasonally quite popular. Moreover, you will find more than 27 different species of ducks here. 

You can also spot some rare birds at this spot, which are mentioned below:

  • Bar-tailed Godwits
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpipers
  • Little Stints

Some of the other highlights of The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary are:

  • Pacific-slope Flycatchers
  • Orange-crowned Warblers
  • Black Phoebes
  • Marsh Wrens
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadees
  • Wilson’s Warblers

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Located near the town of Moss Landing, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, this reserve and its surroundings are among the prime birding locations in the state of California. The region has an impressive range of waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and land birds.

You can explore the five miles of trails that allow you to reconnect with nature and let you find an impressive range of bird species, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • California Quails
  • White-tailed Kites
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadees
  • Oak Titmouses
  • Wrentit

Various other sites in the immediate surroundings are also known for bird watching. You can check out Kirby park, and on the north, you can visit the Moss Landing State Wildlife Area. If you drive about 20 miles south, you can visit the Point Pinos lighthouse, which is another excellent spot for watching seabirds.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most visited spots in California, and perhaps the US. Although many visitors come here to appreciate the fantastic sights of the San Francisco bay and the engineering marvel that the Golden Gate Bridge is, many birding enthusiasts are attracted to this location.

On the northern side of the golden gate bridge, you can visit the martin headlands, which are contained in The Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They have many bird-watching trails, where you can go for a hike and watch some of the local species. You can expect to spot the following species in this area:

  • California Quails
  • Black Phoebes 
  • Western Scrub-Jays
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadees
  • Golden-crowned Sparrows
  • Spotted Towhees

You can also visit the nearby Rodeo Lagoon, which is an excellent spot to watch waterfowl like seagulls, loons, waders, grebes, and shorebirds. There are more than 270 species in the surrounding areas, so it is a prime birding spot that you can’t miss.

Another location you need to check out in The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a hawk hill site. Every year a raptor watch is organized on this spot. Here are some of the species that can be spotted at this point:

  • Ospreys
  • Northern Harriers
  • White-tailed Kites
  • Sharp-shinned Hawks
  • Cooper’s Hawks
  • Broad-winged Hawks
  • Red-shouldered Hawks
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Merlins
  • American Kestrels
  • Peregrine Falcons 

If you are lucky, you might even spot a Golden Eagle or a Ferruginous Hawk.

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Located less than a mile from the San Diego Highway, the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is an amazing natural habitat stretching over more than 300 acres of wetland and riparian areas. The sanctuary has miles of trails that provide a fascinating bird watching experience. 

There are more than 300 different species of birds in the area, which include an impressive range of waterfowl, pelicans, rails, gulls, shorebirds, and grebes. 

The region also has many kinds of hummingbirds, here are some precise that you will find in the area:

  • Black-chinned hummingbirds
  • Anna’s hummingbirds
  • Costa’s hummingbirds
  • Allen’s hummingbirds

Final Thoughts

California is an exceptional bird-watching destination in the US, and if you are a birding enthusiast, you can’t miss out on it. Therefore, check out the locations mentioned in this post, if you want to have a spectacular bird-watching trip to California.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

What Do you Think?