With terrain that includes Pacific Ocean beaches, healthy marshlands, thick forests, and broad meadows—not to mention its location on the Pacific Coast Flyway—Sonoma County supports a wide diversity of resident and migrating birds.
Here are some county parks and protected areas known for being avian hot spots, arranged in alphabetical order:
Bodega Bay: Sonoma County Regional Park trails in Bodega Bay offer wonderful opportunities to spot pelagic birds on the water, shorebirds in the mudflats, and waterfowl on the harbor. Head to trails at Doran Beach (loads of shore birds), the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail (situated beside a coastal saltwater marsh), and Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail for great birding.
Gualala Point Regional Park: Situated where the Gualala River enters the Pacific Ocean, the park attracts numerous species of shorebirds. As you walk across the white sand dunes beside the ocean, you’ll sometimes see huge flocks of birds rise before you, soar into the sky, cart about, and then land together in “new” feeding grounds a short distance away.
Lake Sonoma: Nestled into a valley overlooked by mountains and bordered by 50 miles of shoreline, this huge lake and its beautiful surroundings provide a year-round residence for live-in birds and a great temporary shelter for those passing through. When you’re not birding, visit the fish hatchery, go boating, fish the stocked lake, paddle a canoe, or hike, bike, or canter on more than 40 miles of trails.
Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail: Thanks to the unique and complex habitat of SonomaCounty's largest freshwater wetlands, this trail is a birder’s paradise. More than 200 species of birds are known to reside in or feed and rest in the Laguna in the course of migration, including egrets, hawks, sparrows, finches, woodpeckers and even bald eagles.
Riverfront Regional Park: Located on the Russian River west of Windsor, this park is a nesting spot for great blue herons from January through July. You’re bound to see some of those magnificent birds throughout the year, along with hawks, coots, mallards, hummingbirds, the occasional osprey, and many others.
Spring Lake Regional Park: Located on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, the park’s large size and huge freshwater lake attract diverse bird species, especially during migration. You may see a variety of geese, egrets, herons, hawks, woodpeckers, owls, jays, warblers, sparrows, and many more species.
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge and its estuary provide an important wintering area for west coast migrating waterfowl. Among the denizens, both year-round and transitory: American white pelican, Northern harrier, American wigeon, Peregrine falcon, Ring-necked pheasant, Greater yellowleggs, Red-necked phalarope, Least tern, Western burrowing owl, and the Song sparrow. Download a complete bird list.
Trione-Annadel State Park: With nearly 5,000 acres of rolling hills, trees, grasslands and plains—all of it mostly untouched—wildlife thrives at Trione Annadel and bird sightings are plentiful.
Tolay Lake Regional Park: Tolay Lake is prime habitat for hawks, eagles, owls, white-tailed kites and many other birds. Park access is allowed through a day-use permit program, guided hikes, and the annual Tolay Fall Festival. For details, visit the park’s website.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.