Young Birdwatcher A young birder peers through binoculars. Photo © Kakapo31/Flickr via Creative Commons

The Show

Thousands of soaring, dancing, singing birds performing nightly.

Front-Row Seats to a Natural Thrill; Please Turn Your Phone ON

The mind-boggling scope of thousands of birds in flight is not to be missed. With their haunting birdsong providing the soundtrack, witness the sheer beauty of thousands of birds migrating through California this winter.

Be an eBirder

Help us save this natural phenomenon by logging what you see on your smartphone. Apps like Birdlog feed into eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s massive database of bird observations. The Conservancy uses eBirds’ crowd-sourced data to create “Pop-up Habitat” for birds looking for a few inches of water to rest, roost and feed. Here are three places to look for birds in the Sacramento Valley.

Bring the Family

Grab the family and head out to experience millions of birds soaring overhead as they travel the Pacific Flyway, one of the world’s most important bird migration routes.

Here are five places to see the show (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.

Elkhorn Slough
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.

Ormond Beach
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. 

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