Bird Watching at Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore offers some of the finest birdwatching in the United States. More than 70,000 acres of habitat harbor an incredible variety of bird life. Nearly 490 avian species have been observed in the park and on adjacent waters.
The park's coastal location and its wealth of unspoiled habitats, estuaries, grasslands, coastal scrub and forest all attract many migrating and wintering birds. The projection of the peninsula some 10 miles seaward from the "mainland" makes Point Reyes National Seashore a landing spot for many vagrants—birds that may have made errors in navigation and thus are unexpected in this area.
All of these factors account for the Point Reyes area consistently reporting one of the highest tallies in the nation every year during the Christmas Bird Count.
Visit our Birds page to learn more about Snowy Plovers and Northern Spotted Owls.
Download the Birds of Point Reyes National Seashore species list (205 KB PDF, Adobe® Acrobat Reader® required).
Where to Birdwatch
There are many great places to view birds within the park* and the following are some of the best:
A great variety of land birds frequent the numerous habitats along the trails over Inverness Ridge to the ocean—warblers, sparrows, kinglets, thrushes, wrens, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and owls.
Since the levees surrounding this former cattle pasture were breached in 2008, many species of shorebirds and waterfowl have returned to this area at the head of Tomales Bay. Look for American wigeon, Bufflehead, Green-winged teal, American coot, Wilson's Snipe, California Black Rail, sandpipers, egrets, and more in the wetlands and marshes, and Osprey, Northern Harriers, White-tailed Kite, and maybe even a Bald Eagle or two flying over the wetlands searching for food.
A variety of habitats converge in the Limantour area, resulting in an abundance of birds species. Look for wading birds in the marshes, waterfowl on the ponds, shorebirds on the beach, brown pelicans cruising over the breakers, and birds of prey soaring over dunes and wetlands.
Bolinas Lagoon attracts cormorants, pelicans, kingfishers, and a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds. Audubon Canyon Ranch's Bolinas Lagoon Preserve protects heron and egret rookeries.
Five Brooks Pond
In winter, green-backed heron, hooded merganser, ring-necked duck, and grebes can be seen. In grasses and trees, watch for pileated woodpeckers, swallows, accipiters, warblers, and thrushes.
Excellent for winter ducks and raptors. Black-shouldered kites are commonly seen in winter and fall. This is also a sensitive nesting area for the threatened western snowy plover. Please tread carefully on the sandy beaches during the spring and early summer months.
An old pine plantation provides winter roosting habitat for long-eared and great-horned owls. Look for water and shore birds such as great egrets, great blue herons, and loons in the Estero. Watch for hawks above the grasslands.
Lighthouse Rocks and Cliff Areas
Brown pelicans in fall, numerous pelagic and migrating species in spring. Some of the most common spring pelagics include pelagic and Brandt's cormorants, common murres, pigeon guillemots, loons and surf scoters. Keep your eyes open for black oystercatchers all year. Peregrine falcons are occasionally observed. Tufted puffins are infrequently seen in the spring and early summer.
On the heels of a 2018 NPS-National Audubon Society study of potential climate change-driven shifts in bird species distributions, Audubon has launched a new community science program—Climate Watch—to test the science and monitor for expected changes. Climate Watch surveys take place in the winter (January 15–February 15) and in the summer breeding season (May 15–June 15). Learn more...
* Please note: employee housing as well as park administrative, maintenance, operations, and storage facilities, including, but not limited, to access roads, outbuildings, grounds, and docks, are closed to public use.
Last updated: April 8, 2019