Witness One of the World’s Most Magnificent Migrations—Filling California’s Skies Now!
The Great Pacific Flyway: Nature at Its Most Thrilling
Cancel that trip to Africa now! There’s no reason to travel so far when you can witness nature at its most awe-inspiring right here in California. This winter, millions of birds are making their way across our skies as they travel the Pacific Flyway spanning Alaska to South America, one of the world’s most important bird migration routes. The sights and sounds of enormous flocks of cranes, geese and hundreds of other species flying overhead is an unforgettable wildlife experience not to be missed.
Though the vast wetlands that once provided food and habitat for the birds are nearly gone—we’ve lost 95 percent of them to agriculture, cities and infrastructure like highways—the Conservancy has discovered that farmland can be a great substitute for habitat that wetlands once provided.
Through continual experimentation on the farm we own and operate on Staten Island in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, we’re exploring the important role farms can play for migrating birds. Working closely with other Central Valley farmers, we’re producing easy, inexpensive agricultural practices that create habitat while keeping our farmlands productive and profitable.
These techniques are simple, like leaving waste grain in the field and flooding fallow land when the birds need water most. In addition, through our partnership with PRBO Conservation Science and Audubon California, we’re creating solutions that will keep these magnificent animals filling our skies.
Don’t Miss It
From North to South:
Cosumnes River Preserve
Galt, Sacramento County
The Conservancy and our partners operate the 46,000-plus-acre Cosumnes River Preserve, south of Sacramento—one of the most important birding spots on the West Coast, providing an outstanding protected habitat that attracts hundreds of species of waterfowl and shorebirds numbering in the thousands. During the winter, you’ll be rewarded with sightings of flocks of the four-foot-tall majestic sandhill crane. The preserve hosts regular guided bird walks, events and an annual crane festival.
Moss Landing, Monterey County
As one of the largest estuaries on the California coast, Elkhorn Slough is one of the richest birding sites in the state. You’ll experience a wide variety of migrating birds that stop here on their way from their breeding grounds in eastern Siberia and Alaska as they head to their wintering grounds as far south as Tierra del Fuego. The reserve has five miles of trails to explore. There is a birding walk on the first Saturday of every month at 8:30 am.
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Near Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County
With a diversity of wildlife comparable to Africa’s Serengeti, the Carrizo Plain is the largest protected habitat along the Pacific Flyway. It’s a birder’s paradise in winter when it becomes a playground for hawks, kites, falcons and eagles. For a great birding spot, take advantage of the new boardwalk along the edge of Soda Lake. Begin your adventure at the Goodwin Education Center to get the latest on where the birds are. The center is open from the beginning of December to the end of May.
Oxnard, Ventura County
With so much of the southland’s coastal wetlands gone, Ormond Beach is a critical habitat teeming with birdlife. A Nature Conservancy reserve, the beach is filled with sand dunes, and a lagoon often forms in winter, giving you a bird’s-eye view of a huge range of birds including nesting colonies of rare California least terns and western snowy plover. Join us for our free Saturday monthly hikes at 10 am.
San Diego NWR Complex
Multiple locations in southern San Diego County
From the Tijuana Slough to Jamul’s McGinty Mountain, this series of refuges was established just for the birds! More bird species have been seen in San Diego County than any other county in the U.S., and January is the peak of winter birding. The Tijuana Slough offers a free Jr. Ranger program for kids every Thursday at 3:30 pm and free bird walks on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month at 3 pm.