California is fantastic for birding! There is such a variety of habitats, including the highest peak in the continental US, the Mojave Desert, redwood forests, inland marshes and 840 miles of coastline! Over 660 bird species have been recorded in California, more than any other state. Two bird species can be found only in California, the Yellow-billed Magpie and the Island Scrub-Jay. Below is a list of a few birding hotspots in California, you can click on the hotspot name to link to their site:
Birders have found more than 300 species of birds here! Located in the town of Arcata, in Northern California, they have an intepretive center along with great walking trails for birders. The best seasons to bird here is from the fall through the spring.
Here you’ll find many roads and trails to take throughout the park. Over 400 species have been recorded here! There is a variety of land habitats as well as the seashore here, so make sure to look for both land birds and shorebirds. Make sure to stop in at the visitor center to see which trails they suggest to take for the birds you are looking to see.
Here there are lookout points along the trails which are great for birding. There are over 270 species reported here! Located in San Francisco in northern California. Not only will you find plenty of land birds, but keep an eye out for seabirds as well since you will be birding close to the shore.
Located in eastern California the lake is salty and it is a critical stopover for migrant birds. There are more than 230 species recorded here! Besides the migrant birds stopping over you may see many other species breeding in the area. California Gulls can be found nesting here in the tens of thousands!
The Devereux Slough is located in Santa Barbara in central California. It is a tidal estuary with the water levels fluctuating enough that it is great for various types of shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. There are over 280 species recorded here! The best seasons to bird here is from late summer through winter.
Down near Huntington Beach just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, Bolsa Chica is one of my favorites! There are mudflats, dunes, freshwater and saltwater marshes. Most of the year you will find over 25 species of ducks, plenty of shorebirds, egrets and herons. I usually find several other birders there each time I go and everyone is willing to share information about the birds they’ve seen. You will also see plenty of photographers, it is a perfect location for them to get great photos since the birds are used to people. There is a long loop trail, but just note that the parking lot is the only area with a toilet, so keep that in mind when you are drinking all that water along the hot open trail!
I’ve spent many hours in this 300 acre sanctuary. Located in Irvine, CA, there are over 300 bird species recorded here! Make sure to stop in at the Audubon House office to get a map, it’s a big area. The ponds here are used to for cleaning the water before it ends up in the Pacific Ocean, they are part of the city’s water-treatment facility, and the birds love them!
Located in San Diego, Southern California, Carrillo has a lot of scrub brush with a few trees and is a great place to look for migrant birds in the fall. The migrant birds find this area to be a good place to stop over and feed/rest before heading onward… Over 220 species have been recorded here! As well as the migrants stopping over you will find many resident birds love this area too.
Just north of Palm Springs, the preserve lies in the foothills of the Little San Bernadino Mountains. There are over 8 miles of trails to explore here, which include both marshy and desert areas. Over 220 species have been recorded here! Often you can find a local volunteer leading a nature/bird walk, so make sure to walk along and learn more about the area and the birds that you might see.
Roughly 30 miles north of Mexico in Southern California lies the Salton Sea. It is the largest lake in California. Being such a large lake, it attracts many migrant birds. There is a visitor center at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge at the southern end of the lake, a great place to start your birding. They will be able to give you birding advice as well as a much needed map! In the summer this is probably the only place that you can find the Yellow-footed Gull. Over 38 species of shorebirds, 20 species of jaegers and gulls as well as ten species of terns have all been recorded here!