5 Incredible Places To Watch Birds In California

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When it comes to bird watching locations in the US, no state can compete with California. The stale alone is home to more than 660 bird species, which is more than any other state in the country. One of the main reasons why California has much diversity is the wide and impressive range of different terrains and habitats.

Along with a shoreline that extends for 840 miles, the state has many coastal beaches, redwood forests, inland marshes, and some mountains as well. Moreover, the state of California also includes the Mojave Desert. This wide range of habitats allows the state to have a very significant population of birds.

However, if you are going to plan a birding trip to California, where exactly are you going to go to the massive state? You need to know the best spots that will let you observe a wide range of species in their natural habitat. Today’s post, I am going to tell you about five of the most spectacular bird watching locations in California. Therefore, check out the rest of the post to learn more.

Bird Watching Locations In The US – Where To Watch Birds In California?

bird watching locations - places near me

1. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

In between the Arcata bay and highway 101, lies one of the most breathtaking birding spots of the California coast. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife sanctuary is a habitat to more than 300 different species of birds, making it like a paradise for birders.

The sanctuary has many superb trails to follow, and you can even visit the interpretive center to learn about the recent sighting of birds and get some guidance.

The Arcata Marsh is popular for massive flocks of waterfowl and different shorebirds. Especially in the winters, you can see large formations of brent geese and Cackling geese. Moreover, the Marsh also reports having around 27 species of ducks.

Read also: The Smartest Birds In The World

Around 42 different species of shorebirds have been spotted at the Marsh, including but not limited to three kinds of phalaropes, and even scarce species like Bar-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

You can see Peregrine Falcons all year-round, and sometimes, if you are lucky, you might even spot a Short-eared Owl flying over the marsh grasses.

Some of the other species nestings in the area include the following.

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

2. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic architectural sites in the world; however, few people know how much of an excellent bird watching location it can be. To the north of the bridge, the martin headlands are situated, which are a peninsula containing the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

There are many trials and observation spots within The Marin Headlands where bird-watching enthusiasts can observe various local bird species, some of which are:

  • Spotted Towhees
  • The Western Scrub-Jay
  • Black Phoebes
  • Wrentit
  • Chestnut-backed Golden-crowned Sparrows
  • Chickadees
  • Bushtits
  • California Quails

You will also see many pelagic birds and seabirds if you move a little closer to the shoreline. Some of the most prominent pelagic species of the region are:

  • Pigeon Guillemots
  • Common Murres
  • Shearwaters

And of course, like any other shore, you will see many seagulls as well.

On the western side of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Rodeo Lagoon can be found. This location is a prime destination for many migrating bird species from fall to spring and primarily in the winters. According to the statistics, you can spot about 270 different bird species in this small area. The most prominent species of the region are:

  • Waterfowl waders
  • Grebes
  • Loons

And many different shorebirds.

Another familiar bird-watching spot in The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is Hawk hill. A raptor watch is organized in this spot every year during the fall. This is one of my favorite bird-watching places, as it gives you an unforgettable view of several majestic and beautiful birds flying with the Golden Gate Bridge and the sunset as their background. Therefore, if you are planning a bird watching trip to California, you cannot miss out on this spectacular destination. Therefore, don’t forget to get a nice pair of monocular for spotting those far off birds. Check out some zoom monocular reviews to find the best gadget.

3. Morro Bay

bird watching in california-Morra Bay

Located at a ten-mile drive from San Luis Obispo at its Northwest, this fantastic coastal city and bay is a trendy bird-watching destination in California. The main attraction of the destinations is the massive numbers of migrant and wintering waterfowl. Here is a quick list of some of the prominent birds that make their ways to Morro Bay in the winters.

  • Pelicans
  • Loons
  • Cormorants
  • Shorebirds
  • Grebes
  • Seagulls

See also: Most Endangered Species of Our Planet

One of the most magnificent sights is when thousands of these birds fly over the bay, which is a real and authentic wildlife experience.

However, the most sought-after and signature bird of Morro bay is the small goose known as Brant. These geese feed on eelgrass from the bay’s shores, and in the minters, primarily from November to mid-April, the Brent geese make Morro bay one of their critical winter migrating grounds on the Pacific coast.

At the north end of the bay, you can see a magnificent, 576 feet tall dome-shaped volcanic feature known as the Morro rock. Another popular bird species of Morro Bay, the Peregrine Falcons, nest on this rock.

Furthermore, other species like Pelagic Cormorants and Pigeon Guillemot also have this rock as their primary nesting area. This is why climbing this rock is also forbidden.

There are several fantastic scouting sites scattered all over the area. You should make your way to the Morro Bay State Park, where a boardwalk near the marina is a perfect and easy bird-watching spot. From this spot, you can see a nearby heronry which nests many rare and fascinating birds. Which are named below:

  • Great Blue Herons
  • Snowy Egrets
  • Great Egrets
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron

Adjacent to the Morro Bay State Park, you will also find the Morro Estuary Natural Preserve, which stretches over 800 acres of land and is an excellent location for spotting birds.

4. The Yosemite National Park, Yosemite

bird watching in california-Yosemite National Park

One of the largest, most iconic and popular national parks in the US is The Yosemite National Park. The coniferous forests within the park are prime habitat for many bird species, which makes Yosemite National Park one of the perfect bird-watching destinations in California.

If you are planning a bird watching trip to Yosemite national park, you should visit between spring and summer. Because otherwise, some of the higher areas of the park may be closed down because of the snow.

At the central valley area of the Yosemite National park, you will be able to spot various unique bird species. Here is a quick rundown of the most popular and easily spotted bird species of the Yosemite Valley:

  • American Dippers
  • White-throated swifts
  • Red-breasted Sapsuckers
  • Black-throated Gray Warblers
  • Western Wood-Pewees
  • Violet-green Swallows
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Nashville Warblers
  • Red-breasted Nuthatches
  • Black-headed Grosbeaks
  • Pacific-slope Flycatchers

However, the bird that everyone comes here to spot is the elusive and rare black swift.

If you move a little higher than that main valley area, follow the trails into the forest of the Yosemite National Park. The higher mountains have many other fascinating and wonderful bird species that you can have a look at. Here is a list of some of the popular birds that you can find in the higher forests:

  • Mountain bluebirds
  • White-headed woodpeckers
  • Dusky flycatchers
  • Hermit thrushes
  • Sooty grouses
  • Pine grosbeaks

5. The Mono Lake and surroundings, Mono county

Formed more than 760,000 years ago, Mono Lake is one of the fascinating water bodies in the country. It is particularly popular because of the limestone towers in the water, which were formed when the level of the lake was higher. Though many tourists make their way to this lake to see these limestone towers, a fair share of bird watchers also visit every year.

Located in Eastern California, Mono Lake, and its surroundings is a top-rated stop for many migrating species. The area is also a habitat to around 230 different species of birds. Here is a list of the birds that have the highest population, and are easily spotted:

  • American Avocets
  • Sparrows
  • Great Horned owls,
  • Violet-Green Swallows
  • Warblers
  • Pinyon jays
  • Virginia Rails

Every year you can also see a massive population of migrating birds make their way to the lake, some of which are:

  • Red-necked Phalaropes
  • Eared Grebes
  • Wilson’s Phalaropes

If you are planning a trip to the Mono lake for bird-watching, you should take a quick trip to the nearby town known as Lee Vining. There you can check out the regional visitor center, where you can learn a lot about the local bird species of the area and get some useful information and maps to help you check off the most birds of your list.

Final thoughts

Bird-watching is a fascinating scientific sport and an exciting hobby. It allows you to disconnect from your life and reconnect to nature. You need to check out the locations mentioned above if you are planning a bird-watching trip to California. I hope that the post is fun to read and informative. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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