sbcobirding receives the generous support of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society. For more than 50 years SBAS has helped to preserve the biological diversity of the Santa Barbara area.
sbcobirding This website was created as a resource for everything birding in Santa Barbara County. The goal is simply to promote the activity of field birding in the county and to provide information to interested birders. If you have comments about this website or would like more information about local birding, please contact me.
Santa Maria River Estuary - Rancho Guadalupe DunesSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hours: 7:00AM - dusk Map: +Hotspot:Description: Positioned on the Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo county line, the mouth of the Santa Maria River is without question one of the best shorebird sites in all of coastal Santa Barbara County. It is recognized as a National Audubon Society "Important Bird Area." You can park just outside the entrance gate and bird the willow-riparian habitat and pasture all the way to the sand mining plant to look for resident birds and migrant passerines (no parking along the road). During fall migration (late June through October) the estuary and beach can be teeming with activity as sandpipers, wading birds, pelicans, gulls and terns stop and feed here in large numbers. When the estuary is flooded, waterfowl are often present along the eastern shoreline. Pelagic birds can be spotted offshore and regularly include loons, grebes, scoters, shearwaters and the occasional alcid. The list of rare birds found here is long and includes American Golden-Plover, Little Curlew, Red-necked Stint, and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Note that the entrance gate is closed on Monday mornings for road maintenance.Birds you might see or hear: Sooty Shearwater, Snowy Plover, Least Tern, Peregrine Falcon, American White Pelican, Horned Lark, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Swainson’s Thrush, Wilson’s WarblerSanta Maria Wastewater Treatment PlantSeasons: sp | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - 5:00PM Map: Hotspot:Description: Birders are welcome but must sign in at the office prior to birding on the property. The Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant is most productive in spring, fall and winter. When water levels are low in the settling ponds there can be good numbers of shorebirds present during spring and fall migration. Waterfowl are found in the large ponds to the west of the main facility which are accessible by driving around on the pond levees. Irregular breeders include Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. Sandpipers are often abundant in fall migration and begin to show in late June. Yellowlegs, dowitchers and phalaropes are commonly seen here. A check of the clarifying tanks will produce both Short-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls in winter with the occasional Iceland Gull in the mix. Several rare birds have been recorded at this location including Little Gull, Franklin’s Gull, Ruff, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Rusty Blackbird.Birds you might see or hear: Black-necked Stilt, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Short-billed Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Peregrine Falcon, Loggerhead Shrike, Tree SwallowJim May ParkSeasons: sp | fa | wi Hours: 7:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Description: This Santa Maria City Park has developed into a consistently good birding spot over the past several years. Conditions change depending on water levels in the lake and the height of the weedy margins. Jim May Park has the largest Great-tailed Grackle nesting colony in the county. The lake can be a good place to study gulls in winter months and the occasional Iceland Gull or inland Western Gull might be found in the mix. Among the rare birds recorded here - Tundra Swan, Sabine’s Gull, Solitary Sandpiper, Eastern Phoebe, Bell’s Vireo, Clay-colored Sparrow, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Northern Waterthrush, and Summer Tanager have all made appearances. The park bird list boasts around 200 species to date.Birds you might see or hear: Virginia Rail, American Avocet, Short-billed Gull, American White Pelican, Green Heron, Barn Swallow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Great-tailed GrackleWaller ParkSeasons: sp | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Description: Waller Park consists of 153 acres of lawn, deciduous trees and oak groves, and its most prominent feature - towering Monterey pines. Many of them over 80 years old. More than 170 species have been recorded in the park. Most of these migrants in spring and fall, but winter has proven to be quite good for birding as well. Both Lawrence's Goldfinch and Allen's Hummingbird nest here. Winter may bring mountain birds including sapsuckers, nuthatches and thrushes. A check of the front pond will often produce a couple of wild geese or ducks among the resident waterfowl. A very cooperative Garganey was found here. An unexpected Wood Thrush appeared in the park in fall of 2005 marking a county first record.Birds you might see or hear: Allen’s Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Cassin’s Kingbird, Hutton's Vireo, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Varied Thrush, Western Bluebird, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Lawrence’s GoldfinchBarka SloughSeasons: sp | su Map: Hotspot:Description: The dense willow-riparian habitat at the west end of San Antonio Road at this spot on Vandenberg SFB is excellent in spring and summer for a host of local breeding specialties. Regular nesting birds include flycatchers, chickadees, buntings and grosbeaks. Swallows are often seen over the slough and at the western boundary closer to Highway 1. Yellow-billed Magpies occasionally stray into the oak-covered hills at the slough's east end. Rarities have included Black Swift, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.Birds you might see or hear: Allen's Hummingbird, White-tailed Kite, Cooper's Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Hutton's Vireo, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Swainson’s Thrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli BuntingSanta Ynez River Estuary - Ocean Beach County ParkSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Description: This estuary is recognized as a National Audubon Society "Important Bird Area" on Vandenberg Air Force Base. Extensive salicornia wetland makes up much of the habitat along the entrance road to the park where White-tailed Kite and Northern Harrier may be seen. The occasional Short-eared Owl (rare) may make an appearance at dusk in winter. Shorebirds can number in the hundreds during fall migration when the estuary is flooded. Waterfowl, grebes, egrets, gulls and terns are commonly found here. Look through the park cypress trees and myopurum hedge next to the railroad tracks for migrant passerines and vagrant warblers in fall. Scoping offshore from the beach will produce scoters, loons, and shearwaters. Rarities include Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black Tern, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret.Birds you might see or hear: Clark’s Grebe, Snowy Plover, Baird’s Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Iceland Gull, Least Tern, Sooty Shearwater, Peregrine Falcon, Savannah Sparrow, "Nuttall's" White-crowned SparrowMiguelito County ParkSeasons: sp | su | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Description: Miguelito County Park is located in stream and canyon oak woodland just south of Lompoc. It is home to numerous western bird species such as nuthatches, woodpeckers, sparrows and juncos. Band-tailed Pigeon is fairly common in the coast live oaks here. Common Poorwill can be found in spring and summer at night along the canyon road around the 6.0 mile marker. In winter months, this park should be checked for Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Varied Thrush. Search for migrant bird activity along the riparian habitat next to the creek in spring. This park has hosted a few rarities in the past such as Dusky Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a county first Louisiana Waterthrush. Birds you might see or hear: Western Screech-Owl, Common Poorwill, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American RobinRiver Park & Sweeney RoadSeasons: sp | su | wi Map: Hotspot:Description: 45 acre River Park is best in spring, fall and winter. Check the willows and cottonwoods adjacent to the Santa Ynez river for migrant passerines. Look through the park pines and along the willow edge next to the river for warblers and sparrows. The pond is occasionally good for waterfowl and may include a rare goose or duck. Another bonus is the regular turnover of gulls that make their way to and from the coast in winter. Kiwanis Lake pond has been a reliable place for Iceland Gull, and in 2009 a Glaucous Gull was found among the regular gulls. To the south and opposite the entrance to the park is the dense riparian habitat along Sweeney Road. Here you might see breeding flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, and chickadees. White-throated Swift is commonly seen circling above the bluffs here. Occasionally a Northern Pygmy-Owl may be heard calling from within the dense under-story below or seen in the cottonwood trees. Look for buntings and grosbeaks along Sweeney Road.Birds you might see or hear: California Quail, White-throated Swift, Hairy Woodpecker, Cassin’s Kingbird, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Bluebird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Grasshopper Sparrow , Blue GrosbeakJalama Beach County ParkSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Fee: Description: Jalama Beach south of Lompoc is one of few north coast beach access points in the county. It is situated mid-way between Point Arguello on Vandenberg SFB, and Point Conception to the south. Camping is available at this location and day use fees apply. The drive along Jalama Road is characterized by oak-covered coastal foothills with areas of narrow riparian habitat. In spring look for Ash-throated Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting and Blue Grosbeak. Resident species include Nuttall's Woodpecker, California Scrub-Jay, and California Thrasher. At Jalama Beach Park numerous gulls, terns, pelicans and shorebirds are found at the beach and at the creek estuary, while loons, grebes and cormorants are found in the surf, and shearwaters are often observed from shore. Spring and fall migrant passerines or an odd vagrant may be seen in the shrubs in the campground area and in the willows lining Jalama Creek mouth. Rarities have included Sabine’s Gull, Reddish Egret, Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, and Swamp Sparrow.Birds you might see or hear: Snowy Plover, Short-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Elegant Tern, Black-vented Shearwater, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Common Raven, Wrentit, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak