5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in California

By Carly Zinderman

5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in California

California is a veritable mecca of birdwatching. Thanks to a variety of different habitats, birdwatching enthusiasts can head all over the state to see different kinds of birds. Efforts by national parks and Audubon society centers help conservation efforts to ensure that California’s bird populations thrive for generations to come. Some areas are home to hundreds of different kinds of birds. Check out a few of the hikes around California where you can spot birds, with and without binoculars. 

1. Anacapa Island at Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island is one of the Channel Islands located off the coast of California in Ventura County. Take a boat tour from Ventura or Santa Barbara Harbors, where the official visitor’s centers are located. You can then spend a half day or longer touring the island, which is filled with marine bird life. The island is home to California pelicans and gulls. There’s a two-mile trek around the island so that you can view many of California’s birds that make their home on the island. Check the official website for information before you plan your tour as access requires the ability to climb ladders and there is no transportation on the island. Also, at certain times of year the island is filled with breeding birds and thus subject to large amounts of guano and stench.

2. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore has found nearly 500 different bird species in 70,000 acres comprised of unspoiled habitats, estuaries, grasslands, coastal scrub, and forest. Each year there is an annual bird count for Christmas, during which time the park reports some of the largest numbers in the nation, making it an essential spot for birdwatchers to visit. In addition to native species, Point Reyes is also often the site for birds that get lost during migration, bringing incredible rare species from around the globe right to California. 

3. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a vast array of unique habitats for wildlife, including dunes and salt marshes. The refuge provides sanctuary for a variety of migrant birds at different times of the year. Small birds as well as large Canadian geese often stopover as they make their annual migration to warmer climates. Check the website to find out which birds you can expect to see when you make your visit as well as ways to support the efforts to restore the refuge and preserve wildlife.

4. Audubon Center at Debs Park

The Audubon Center at Debs Park offers a variety of activities for new and experienced birdwatchers to spot different kinds of feathered wildlife. The center has many programs as well bird walks and special days that celebrate birds. Learn more about birds by checking out a speaker presentation from an expert. There’s also the annual Bird Day LA event to encourage people to learn more about the birds in the park and how to protect them.

5. Bird Island Trail at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve includes a Bird Island Trail that is fully accessible for all abilities. From select viewpoints you can spot Bird Island, which is home to nesting birds including gulls, herons, and others during the spring and summer. Bring your binoculars to see the families as they interact with each other and you’ll likely see other species of birds along the way as well. And many other types of wildlife as well, including otters and seals, although some patches of beach are closed to visitor access during times of the year to give new families privacy.  

Subscribe for future Step Outside News!