Top 16 Places to Spot Migratory Birds in California

Fall migration is ramping up in October and November.

Fall migration is one of the great natural spectacles in California. The peak is coming in October and November, providing opportunities to witness the joy of birds on the move. Which birds are you excited to spot this time of year?

Are you looking for the best places to go birding in California? Check out our top 16 list below, including hotspots such as the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Humboldt Bay, and Bolsa Chica Wetlands. If you’d like to go birding with bird enthusiasts, Audubon Chapters are hosting field trips throughout the state. Find an Audubon Chapter near you

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, Dark-eyed Junco, California Thrasher

Point Pinos, Monterey

This is a key place for seabird migration, including loons and shearwaters.

Sacramento NWR

Pintails, White-fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Grebes, White Pelicans, Egrets, herons, and Bitterns

Pt. Reyes, Marin County

This place kind of defines the term “migrant trap.” Lots of great land birds coming through, including a lot of rarities. In fact, rare birds are common. Black-throated Blue Warblers, Least Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Peregrine Falcon, Surf Scoter, and Loons.

Butterbredt Springs, Kern County

A great hot spot for all you warbler fans. Wilson’s Warblers, Orange Crown Warblers, Yellow-rumped, rare vagrants like Virginia Warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, and Kentucky Warbler.

Piedras Blancas, Central Coast

Look out for Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, Terns, Snowy Plovers, Sandpipers, Black Oystercatchers, Shearwaters, woodpeckers, wintering hawks, and songbirds. 

Morro Bay

Huge numbers of shorebirds - up to 20,000 - including Brant, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, Western Snowy Plover, as well as Short-eared Owl, and Northern Harrier.

Angeles Crest Forest, Los Angeles

Occasional rarity or vagrant – warblers, flycatchers, empidonax flycatchers, western warblers, tanagers, thrushes, and Western Wood-Peewee. Great spot for owls, including Great-Horned Owl.

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

Phalaropes, Ruddy Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, and American Wigeon.

Humboldt Bay

State’s largest concentration of Brant, Marbled Murrelet, Bald Eagle, and breeding heron. Lots of songbirds coming through as well.

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)

Shorebirds including Ruff and Pectoral Sandpipers. People are always finding rarities around here.

Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Orange County/Los Angeles

Least Tern, Savannah Sparrow, huge flocks of migrating shorebirds, and a variety of hawks.

How you can help, right now