10 Best Spots for Birdwatching in Sonoma County

Bodega Bay

With terrain that includes beaches on the Sonoma Coast, 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.

Together, we can safeguard and uphold the natural riches of Sonoma County, ensuring their endurance for countless tomorrows and preserving the beauty and natural resources for generations to come. Check out our page on Sustainable Travel, and look over the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

Owls in Spring Lake Regional Park, Sonoma County
Owls in Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa

Here are 10 of the best county parks and protected areas known for being avian hot spots:

Bodega Bay

A stream flows through the marsh on a foggy day
Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail

Sonoma County Regional Park trails in Bodega Bay offer superb opportunities to spot aquatic birds on the water, shorebirds in the mudflats, and waterfowl on the harbor. Head to trails at Doran Regional Park (loads of shore birds), the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail (situated beside a coastal saltwater marsh), and Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail for excellent birding. 

Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala

The Gualala River flows into the ocean
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 vast flocks of birds rise before you, soar into the sky, fly about, and then land together in ‘new’ feeding grounds a short distance away.

Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, Santa Rosa

A wooden building sits in the middle of the marsh
Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail

This trail is a birder’s paradise thanks to the unique and complex habitat of Sonoma County’s most extensive freshwater wetlands. More than 200 species of birds are known to reside in or feed and rest in the Laguna during migration, including egrets, hawks, sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, and even bald eagles.

Lake Sonoma, Geyserville

A person looks out over the lake at sunset
Lake Sonoma

Nestled into a valley overlooked by mountains and bordered by 50 miles of shoreline, this vast 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.

Riverfront Regional Park, Healdsburg

A bench sits overlooking the river
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’ll see magnificent birds throughout the year, along with hawks, coots, mallards, hummingbirds, the occasional osprey, and many others.

Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa

Ducks swim on a lake
Spring Lake Regional Park

Located on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, the park’s large size and colossal 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, Sonoma

Birds sit on a jetty
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge and its estuary provide a critical wintering area for West Coast migrating waterfowl. Among the regulars, both year-round and transitory: American white pelican, Northern harrier, American wigeon, Peregrine falcon, Ring-necked pheasant, Greater yellowlegs, Red-necked phalarope, Least tern, Western burrowing owl, and the Song sparrow. 

Tolay Lake Regional Park, Petaluma

People sit in a field of wildflowers
Tolay Lake Regional Park

Tolay Lake is a 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.

Trione-Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa

With nearly 5,000 acres of rolling hills, trees, grasslands, and plains – mostly untouched – a great deal of wildlife thrives at Trione-Annadel, and bird sightings are plentiful.

Written by Sonoma County Insider Suzie Rodriguez.

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