Bird watching is a tradition that spans many generations. Nature-lovers tend to gravitate toward birds in particular because these species are so diverse across their preferred regions. In fact, California is a favorite area for bird enthusiasts because of the unique terrain it offers. Beaches, deserts, mountains and forests are all found within California, so every bird species must acclimate to their surroundings. Grab your favorite pair of binoculars and visit one of these top places to go birding in California!
Point Reyes State Marine Reserve
Head north of San Francisco, and you’ll discover a preserved world meant for birds and marine animals alike. Perch yourself on a rock or nearby bench to see about 470 bird species. You’ll notice different species as the seasons and weather change. On cold mornings, you might only see a few hardy species. Warmer days tend to bring out more birds because they can warm their wings in the sunlight. It’s also possible to marvel at the sea lions nearby as their sounds tend to waft across the water.
When you’re in northern Los Angeles, the idea of birding in an urban metropolis might seem unusual. However, Lake Balboa is a distinct area right in Van Nuys. This area is actually a flood control space that’s designed to have a lake perched right in the middle of it. You’re not limited to the standard pigeons and seagulls at Lake Balboa either. You’ll be greeted by cormorants, herons, ducks and Egyptian geese on a regular basis.
Anacapa Island State Marine Reserve
Just off of the coast of Southern California is the Channel Islands. There are several islands that dot the coastline, including the famous Catalina Island. You can take a boat out to a more remote island called Anacapa. In this area, you have the pleasure of seeing birds, including black oystercatchers, island scrub-jays, San Miguel Island song sparrows, brown pelicans and western gulls. Because the area is relatively far from Southern California’s urban sprawl, these birds have a chance to nest and live out their lives without much contact with humans.
This world-famous national park is known for its rock formations and waterfalls, but nearly 250 types of birds live here too. In fact, it’s possible to see these birds in almost every part of the park. The advertised viewing areas are often too crowded for true bird-watching, so it’s important to take advantage of those hiking trails. You only have to walk a short way until you come to an open clearing. Sit down and wait for the birds to fly through as they go about their day.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
There might be an old tale about the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, but it’s actually the hummingbirds that you want to look out for. These amazing birds will zip right past you in search of their next meal. Ideally, look for a secluded bench with bright, tubular flowers nearby. Every hummingbird is attracted to long flower shafts, so that they can use their beak and feed on the nectar.
William R. Mason Regional Park
If you’re still in Southern California, you can also head to Irvine where the William R. Mason Regional Park resides. This region used to be farmland, so there’s many birds who call this area home. The park is relatively large, and you can find a seat almost anywhere you please. Watch out for hawks, warblers, roadrunners, towhees and the Nutting’s flycatcher on your outing.
Bolsa Chica State Reserve
Nestled beside Huntington Beach, the Bolsa Chica State Reserve is a main area for migrating and nesting birds. Depending on the season, birds could be laying eggs or coaxing their chicks out of the nest. Look for western grebes, peregrine falcons, egrets and about 300 more bird species. This area is worth a second look if you’re a local to the area. Different birds populate it nearly every day.
As you take off to one of these destinations, don’t forget your binoculars, hat and identification book. A birding enthusiast should always have these basics on hand, so that they can spot the rarest species out in the field. Every bird outing can be a treasure hunt for unique species in the area.