5 Best Places to Bird Watch in the Bay Area

Thank you to guest writer, Ernie Allison, for sharing this article!


Even though summer isn’t the peak season to witness a heavy migration, the bay area is still full of spots for birders to see some beautiful wild bird species. Whether you’re a local looking to quench your bird watching craving before the migration season, or a visitor looking to see what kind of wildlife the bay area has to offer, here are a few places you’ll want to bring your binoculars and camera.

Lake Chabot 088

Martin Griffin Preserve

Part of the 70,000 acres of the Point Reyes National Seashore, Martin Griffin Preserve, formerly known as Bolinas Lagoon, is home to a large variety of species. Mid-spring to late June is the best time to view herons and egrets setting up their nests, and July can be a good moment to swoon over the fledglings attempting their first flights.  The park is free to get into although donations are encouraged, and there are many hiking trails to explore as well.

Palo Alto’s Baylands Nature Preserve

Palo Alto’s Baylands Nature Preserve is known to be one of the bird watching “hotspots” of the West Coast. Just a little under 2,000 acres, the area has fifteen miles of trails to enjoy. Ducks and pelicans can often be seen residing here, but during the migration season, many different species can be observed.

Coyote Hills Regional Park

Pelicans, egrets, herons, and mallards are commonly found in the Coyote Hills Regional Park. The park is almost 1,000 acres of grassy hills and marshlands that you can bike, hike, or walk to find the perfect area to get out your binoculars and field guide. Camping is available if you’d like to spend the night and make it a more dedicated birding experience, but reservations are required two weeks in advance.

Lake Merced

Lake Merced is the largest freshwater lake in San Francisco, and it attracts a large variety of species. The summer is full of many local breeding birds (blue heron, downy woodpeckers, song sparrows, purple finches, etc.), and the migration and winter seasons bring a variety of warblers, waxwings, and kingbirds. It’s become a major birding hub, so no matter what season you find yourself here, there will be no shortage of birds to try and identify.

Golden Gate Park

Mallard, geese, blue heron, and red-tail hawk are year-round residents of the Golden Gate Park, and some migrators can arrive as early as August. Over 1,000 acres, the bird-friendly park is home to a mass variety of trees, plants, and lakes, so no matter what season you’re coming, it won’t be difficult spotting various types of avian species.

It’s clear that the Bay Area is no stranger to birds of all species, and there is something for birders of any experience. Whether you’re looking to spot some feathered creatures in the city, or you prefer to travel somewhere a bit more private and observe a more natural habitat, you’ll have no problem finding the right location.

About the author: Ernie Allison says: “There’s nothing more relaxing than watching birds do their work.” He’s probably relaxing right now!

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    1. Linda says:

      Thank you. 🙂


  1. Ilana DeBare says:

    Great to see these birding spots highlighted! Meanwhile — if you or other NatureMoms and NatureDads are looking for a kid-friendly birding outing, Golden Gate Audubon is hosting a free family bird walk on Sunday Dec. 8 at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Info at http://www.goldengateaudubon.org/news/pbj-birders-event-for-kids-dec-8/.


    1. Linda says:

      Thanks, Ilana! I’ll add the event to my Nature Time Outdoor Playgroup calendar. http://www.meetup.com/The-Bay-Area-Outdoor-Playgroup/


  2. Lynn Millar says:

    Reblogged this on Walking in Sonoma County…mostly and commented:
    Attention birders – get ready for your migratory visitors. This post comes from A Nature Mom, who knows her Bay Area.
    In the North Bay, don’t forget to check out Shollenberger Park in Petaluma and Bodega Bay. December to February, the birds can fill up the wetlands.
    And I’ve noticed the robins are showing up along Santa Rosa Creek. – Lynn


  3. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the list, Lisa! I will save the list for my next visit.


    1. Linda says:

      You’re welcome, Amy!


  4. Thanks for these excellent suggestions. I would like to add a favorite local spot. The San Francisco Bay Trail along Colma Creek in South San Francisco offers good birding opportunities. It can be accessed from various points but I like to start at the end of Belle Air Road where there is a small parking lot. It’s behind the Costco at 451 S. Airport in South San Francisco. The trail starts by crossing a bridge over Colma Creek and then it heads north along the creek and the edge of the bay. Many types of shore birds and migratory fowl can be seen there at all times of the year. You can also find access points off of East Grand and Oyster Point but the creek and the area where the creek meets the bay provide the best birding.


    1. Linda says:

      Great! Thanks for the tips!


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