Spring Migration in California

The birds you can spot near you

Western Tanager Photo: Judy Bingman

For birds migrating up the Pacific Flyway this spring, California is a major stop. During spring migration, more than a billion birds will make their way over the state. While every location along the flyway is vital to the success of our migratory birds, California stands out because so many of these birds pass through the key habitat areas of the Golden State. Here are some of the birds you can spot at different locations. 

Point Loma, San Diego

Western Grebes, Clark’s Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, Cormorants, Snowy Egret, ducks (Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck), American Coot, American Avocet, gulls, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow

Point Pinos, Monterey

Loons and shearwaters.

Sacramento NWR

Pintails, White-fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Grebes, White pelicans, Egrets, Herons, and Bitterns

Pt. Reyes, Marin County

Black-throated Blue Warblers, Least Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Peregrine Falcon, Surf Scoter, Loons.

Butterbredt Springs, Kern County

Wilson’s Warblers, Orange Crown Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, rare vagrants like Virginia Warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Water Thrush, Kentucky Warbler.

Piedras Blancas, Central Coast

Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, terns, Snowy Plovers, Sandpipers, Black Oystercatchers, Woodpeckers, Hawks, Shearwaters.

Morro Bay

Huge numbers of shorebirds.

Angeles Crest Forest, Los Angeles

Occasional rarity or vagrant – warbler, flycatchers, important stopover songbirds, wood peewee, western peewee, empid flycatchers, western warblers, tanagers, thrushes.

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Plover, Northern Shoveler, Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitcher

Owens Lake, Eastern Sierra

White-faced Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Western and Least Sandpipers, California Gull, Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes

Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra

Phaleropes, Ruddy Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Wigeon

Humboldt Bay

State’s largest concentration of Brant, Breeding heron, Marbled Murrelet, Bald Eagle

Elkhorn Slough, Monterey

Shorebirds, up to 30,000 at a time. Savannah Sparrow, nesting ducks (incl. Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler), Northern Harrier and American Bittern (scarce). Terns (Caspian, Forster’s, Black Skimmer).

Salton Sea, Imperial County

White Pelicans, Yuma Clapper Rail, Snowy Plover, Waterfowl and Shorebirds

Lower LA River (Willow Street)

Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers. 

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Orange County/Los Angeles

Least Tern, Savannah Sparrow, Shorebirds, Hawks

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