9 Best Bird Sanctuaries In California, USA

bird sanctuaries in california
Pei Leng
Pei Leng

Hollywood and Disneyland are often the first things that come to our minds when we talk about California. Interestingly, it does not just attract tourists but also a variety of shorebirds, waterfowls, raptors, seabirds, and migratory birds all year round. The state is one of the best bird-watching spots in the country, with its diversified habitats ranging from coastal beaches, deserts, and mountains, to riparian forests, wetlands, grasslands, and marshes. The state, with 9 national parks and an 840-mile (1,350 km) long coastline, has attracted over 650 species of birds to congregate. Here are some of the best bird sanctuaries in California, for bird enthusiasts.

1. San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary birdhouse
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Eppstein used under CC BY-SA 3.0

San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, covering 300 acres (121 ha) of wetland, was a farmland and duck hunting ground in the 1950s and 60s. The massive restoration was carried out and completed in the year 2000, transforming it into a bird paradise attracting hundreds of bird species including herons, ducks, kingfishers, pelicans, hawks, hummingbirds and sandpipers. Besides an Instagram-worthy bird sanctuary, the wetlands also play an important role in the water treatment process of San Diego Creek. It helps to remove nitrates and other contaminants before the cleaned water is sent to the Upper Newport Bay and the ocean.

IRWD San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

Address: 5 Riparian View, Irvine, CA 92612, United States

Website: IRWD San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

Opening hours: 8am - 4pm (daily)

2. Bird Sanctuary Griffith Park

Cinnamon Teal
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Bird Sanctuary Griffith Park had the most diverse community of bird species in the Santa Monica mountains, before the devastating Griffith Park fire. The park was once populated with more than 200 bird species, including Cinnamon Teal, Purple Finch and Rufous-crowned Sparrow and many more. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by an 800-acre (324 ha) blaze in 2007. A series of repairs, such as fence repairs and catch basin restoration, were subsequently carried out to restore the park.

Bird Sanctuary Griffith Park

Address: 2900 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, United States

Website: Bird Sanctuary Griffith Park

Opening hours: 5am - 10.30pm (daily)

3. Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Great Horned Owl
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Modjeska Canyon, is a nonprofit wildlife park owned by California State University, Fullerton. It was opened as a bird sanctuary back in 1939, but it has expanded to a wildlife sanctuary and research and education center over time. You can explore local wildlife and experience the natural habitat while walking along the nature trails. You can see the rare great-horned owl, the desert tortoise and large mule deers wandering around in the sanctuary. There is also a bird observation porch and a Natural Science Center that offers wonderful interactive and educational exhibits.

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Address: 29322 Modjeska Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676, United States

Website: Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (closed on Mon & Wed)

4. Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

California Clapper Rail
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

This is a bird sanctuary named after Elsie Roemer, a conservationist who dedicated her life to protecting the wildlife and wetlands of Alameda. Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary is a salt marsh habitat for aquatic birds and other endangered species such as the California Clapper Rail. It is one of the best bird watching spots for the California Clapper Rail, egrets, and long-billed curlews, and a rest stop for thousands of migrating birds during the fall and winter months.

Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

Address: Alameda, CA 94501, United States

Website: Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

Opening hours: 5am - 10pm (daily)

5. Bobelaine Sanctuary

Wood Duck
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Bobelaine Sanctuary is a 430-acre (174 ha) wildlife sanctuary, owned by the National Audubon Society. It is named after Bob & Elaine Crandall, who donated the land to Audubon in 1975. You can find alders, sycamores, cottonwoods, willows, and valley oaks in this rare riverine forest. It is also the home of more than 190 species of birds, including Wood Ducks, Black Crowned Night Herons and Swanson’s Hawks. You will discover wildlife footprints of deer, foxes, skunks, raccoons, otters, muskrats, beaverss, coyote, ringtail cats, and many others, while walking on the grassy trails that run through the forest, open grassland, and river.

Bobelaine Sanctuary

Address: 15 Laurel Ave, Yuba City, CA 95991, United States

Website: Bobelaine Sanctuary

6. Whelan Lake Bird Sanctuary

White Pelicans
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

The 73-acre (29 ha) Whelan Lake Bird Sanctuary is an aquatic reserve that attracts a diverse population of bird species. Over 170 species of birds, such as Willow Flycatchers, Least Bell’s Vireos, White Pelicans, Canada geese, and 15 different species of ducks, have been sighted at this vibrant lake. Whelan Lake was originally created for a dairy farm operation owned by the Whelan Family. It was subsequently donated to be used as a sanctuary for native and migratory waterfowls when Ellen Whelan passed on. Prior visiting arrangement with Buena Vista Audubon Society is necessary as the sanctuary is not open to the public.

Whelan Lake Bird Sanctuary

Address: 3850 N River Rd, Oceanside, CA 92058, United States

Website: Whelan Lake Bird Sanctuary

7. Carmel River State Beach

Great Blue Heron on the move!
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Carmel River State Beach is one of the stops on the Central Coast Birding Trail. The Carmel River Lagoon, located north end of the mile-long Carmel River State Seach is a bird-watching paradise. You can see Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Greater Yellowlegs, Virginia Rail and many types of gulls at the lagoon, and several breeds of Vireos and Warblers, as well as Downy Woodpeckers, as you move along upstream of the river.

Carmel River State Beach

Address: 26478 Carmelo St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923, United States

Website: Carmel River State Beach

8. Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary

Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary is a non-profitable organization, providing a home for hundreds of rescued birds. It is also the only place that provides for unwanted, abused or lost parrots in the whole country. They now have more than 60 large parrots, of which some of them are adoptable. These colorful birds are also ambassadors of the sanctuary’s Skylar Learning Center, which offers interactive educational programs and tours to visitors of all ages.

Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary

Address: 2430 Lillie Ave, Summerland, CA 93067, United States

Website: Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary

Opening hours: Wed - Mon: 10am - 4pm (closed on Tue)

9. Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Peregrine Falcon
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

The headquarter of Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a refuge for over 250 species of birds. The refuge consists mainly of wetland, grasslands and riparian areas attracting a variety of shorebirds, waterfowls, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, migratory songbirds and many more as it moves through the seasons. It has as many as 200,000 geese and 500,000 to 750,000 ducks in the winter months. The refuge has walking trails as well as a 6 miles (9.66 km) auto tour which allow visitors to have great views of the wildlife.

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Address: 752 Co Rd 99W, Willows, CA 95988, United States

Website: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 4pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 4pm

A paradise for bird enthusiasts

California has some of the best bird sanctuaries that offer both novices as well as expert bird watchers a perfect spot for bird watching. You can enjoy a leisure walk along the beach to see the brown pelicans or explore the wildlife refuge and spot the raptors! So if you visit California, check out these sanctuaries.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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