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.
Gaviota, Refugio & El Capitan State BeachesSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Hotspots:Fee: Description: These three sites provide a mix of coastal scrub, chaparral, willow-riparian habitat, and stream and canyon woodland on the south coast of Santa Barbara County. These three state beaches are a must when looking for fall rarities! Gaviota Beach was formerly much better than today when there were tamarisk trees in the campground, but it is still worth birding and rarities continue to be found. Each campground is located at the mouth of a canyon along the coastline where migrant passerines become "trapped" at the edge of the ocean often lingering in the trees and shrubs before moving on. All three have a history of producing many of the rarest birds found in Santa Barbara County. September and October are best, but spring can also be good for north-bound migrants. Regular fall rarities include Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, plus most of the common western migrants. Resident birds typical of coastal scrub include California Scrub-Jay, Spotted and California Towhees, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee at El Capitan. Ocean birds are easily spotted offshore due to the generally calm waters and include scoters, gulls, terns, shearwaters, and loons. Your day-use fee will gain you entrance into all three sites providing a solid day of birding. Rarities include: Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-green Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Yellow-throated Warbler, Painted Redstart, Scarlet Tanager, and a county first Varied Bunting at Gaviota State Beach.Birds you might see or hear: Surf Scoter, Allen's Hummingbird, Wandering Tattler, Royal Tern, Elegant Tern, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Canyon Wren, Wrentit, California Thrasher, Rufous-crowned SparrowUCSB North Campus Open SpaceSeasons: sp | fa | wi Map: +Hotspot:Description: This former coastal golf course was purchased by the Trust for Public Land in 2013 and the property has been restored into a functional and educational wetland. 57 acres of wetland are being created linking to 650 acres of contiguous open spaces with trails, boardwalks, and interpretive facilities. Birders have been visiting this site for years as it has been a reliable coastal migrant trap. Many rarities have been found here with fall and winter being the best seasons for birding. Tropical Kingbird is almost annual at this site. Other rarities include Least Bittern, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Lucy’s Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Swamp Sparrow.Birds you might see or hear: Virginia Rail, Sora, White-tailed Kite, Allen’s Hummingbird, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Cassin’s Kingbird, Hutton’s Vireo, Lark SparrowLake Los Carneros County ParkSeasons: sp | fa | wi Hours: 7:00AM - dusk Map: Hotspot:Description: Around the historic old Stow House there is a lush garden of exotic plants and trees worth looking through. Regular western birds such as Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpecker, Hooded Oriole, Hutton's Vireo, California Thrasher, and winter sparrows are common. This habitat can be good for migrants in spring and fall with the occasional rarity being found. A walk around lake trail is good for viewing the water from different angles to find waterfowl, grebes, egrets and herons. Rails and bitterns are often spotted in the channel and among the reeds from the wooden footbridge at the north end of the lake. Rarities here include Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Little Gull, Least Bittern, Summer Tanager.Birds you might see or hear: Common Moorhen, American Bittern, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Hutton's Vireo, Marsh Wren, Hooded OrioleDevereux Slough & Coal Oil Point ReserveSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: +Hotspot:Fee: Description: This site is recognized as a National Audubon Society "Important Bird Area." Productive birding at Devereux Slough is highly dependent upon water levels, but this location can be very good for a variety of waterfowl, herons, egrets and shorebirds. Fall (as early as late June) and winter are the best seasons for birding the slough. Many rare birds have been found here. Most unexpected was a White Wagtail and a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher on the same day! The beach at the mouth of the slough is protected Snowy Plover and Least Tern habitat during the breeding season. Both species are easily seen near the beach in summer. Scan the ocean from Coal Oil Point for pelagic birds, and check the pines and eucalyptus trees around the parking area and entrance road for migrant passerines in spring and fall. There are two pull-outs along the road from which you can look into the slough. If parking in the Cliff House lot at the end of the road (Coal Oil Point) a parking permit is required and must be obtained from Parking Services on the UCSB campus prior to visiting. Among the rare birds found here are Tufted Duck, American Golden-Plover, Ruff, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Neotropic Cormorant, Laughing Gull, Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Tropical Kingbird, Swamp SparrowBirds you might see or hear: Blue-winged Teal, Allen’s Hummingbird, Black-necked Stilt, Snowy Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Tern, Merlin, Cassin’s Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Marsh Wren, Hooded OrioleGoleta Slough, Goleta Point & UCSB LagoonSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: +Hotspots:Fee: Description: Area K wetland is a good spot to observe waterfowl and shorebirds when the Goleta Slough Ecological reserve is partly flooded. It is accessible from within UCSB campus along Mesa Road. Goleta Point is an excellent promontory for watching migrating seabirds in spring. Birders often make spring seabird migration counts from this spot. Hundreds of scoters, loons, shearwaters, jaegers, gulls and terns can be seen moving west offshore from March through May. Daily totals are impressive. A check of the rocks below will produce turnstones in fall and winter. In April of 2006 an American Oystercatcher was found here. Birding at Campus Lagoon is good for waterfowl in winter where one can see American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teals (rare) in addition to several other expected species. When conditions are right, a variety of shorebirds will frequent the slough. A spotting scope is helpful at both locations. A look through the exotic plants around Manzanita Village near the lagoon can be good for land birds during migration periods and for winter vagrants.Birds you might see or hear: Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, Allen’s Hummingbird, Virginia Rail, White-faced Ibis, Hooded OrioleGoleta Beach County ParkSeasons: sp | su | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: +Hotspot:Description: At the east end of the parking lot look for egrets, herons, gulls and terns where the channel empties into the ocean. Numerous birds will often congregate at this spot. More herons can be seen feeding in the upper portion of the channel where the entrance road crosses over. An active heron rookery can be seen in the eucalyptus trees across from the parking lot where Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants annually nest. Scoters and loons can be seen offshore from the beach and pier. Rarities here have included Red-necked Grebe, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, and Laughing Gull. Sightings of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron have become regular at this location.Birds you might see or hear: Surf Scoter, Black-necked Stilt, Clark's Grebe, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Royal Tern, Elegant Tern, Snowy Egret, Tricolored BlackbirdGoleta Sanitary DistrictSeasons: sp | fa | wi Hours: 8:30AM - 5:00PM Map: Hotspot:*IMPORTANT NOTICE- Goleta Sanitary District is closed to birding until further notice. Details HEREDescription: Visitors must sign-in at the office prior to birding. Park only in the lot near the office- do not park near the ponds. This facility is open weekdays only. Look for shorebirds from mid-summer through fall. At the height of migration look for Western, Least, Baird's, Pectoral, and Semipalmated Sandpipers (rare) as they move south in late summer. Numerous Black-necked Stilts can be seen here. Also look through the myoporum trees for passerines. Several rarities have been recorded here. A county first Sedge Wren was found in an adjacent marsh. Numbers of waterfowl also frequent the ponds nearly year-round. Blue-winged Teal and Wood Duck may be seen. An accommodating Fulvous Whistling-Duck was present for months in 2006 allowing great looks. Additional rarities include Curlew Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-green Vireo.Birds you might see or hear: Black-necked Stilt, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Bonaparte's GullAtascadero CreekSeasons: sp | fa | wi Map: +Hotspots:Description: Fall birding is best along this willow-riparian corridor known as Obern Bike Trail. Migrant land birds regularly filter through this stretch of Atascadero Creek from August to November. Allen's Hummingbird is regular along the creek and in the yards adjacent to the path. Unusual migrants and rarities include Palm Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Bobolink, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and the only county record of Groove-billed Ani! This can be a great place for Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting from August to October. It has historically been one of the best places in coastal California for Painted Bunting with a number of records.South County ParksSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hours: 8:00AM - dusk Map: Description: There are several county and open space parks located in the Goleta area that are worth birding. Among those with better habitat are: Arroyo Burro County Beach, Elings Park, San Antonio Canyon Park, Stow Grove Park and San Miguel Open Space at Winchester Canyon. All have excellent habitat and can be quite good in fall for migrant birds and the occasional winter rarity. Typical western migrants can also be found in spring. Explore these eBird Hotspot links for the following locations, or click on the map icon for the City of Goleta Parks and Open Spaces map with additional parks:•San Miguel Open Space - Winchester Canyon•Stow Grove Park•Tucker’s Grove - San Antonio Canyon Park•Elings Park•Arroyo Burro County BeachThere are many rare bird records from these parks over the years. Birds of note include: Black Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Red-headed Woodpecker, Gray Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Dusky Warbler, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Blackburnian Warbler, Sage Thrasher, Clay-colored Sparrow, Scarlet TanagerBirds you might see or hear: Band-tailed Pigeon, Allen's Hummingbird, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, Oak Titmouse, Wrentit, California Thrasher, California TowheeMission CanyonSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Fee: Description: The parks located in this oak woodland in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon are home to a variety of nesting and seasonal birds including Hooded Oriole, Allen’s and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Canyon Wren, Black-headed Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing, Acorn and Nuttall’s Woodpeckers and Band-tailed Pigeons There are other nearby parks worth visiting as well. See the Santa Barbara City Parks description for specifics. There is no fee at Rocky Nook Park but entrance fees apply at the Natural History Museum and the Botanic Garden. Be sure to check operating hours. Explore these eBird Hotspots for the following Mission Canyon locations:•Rocky Nook Park•Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History•Santa Barbara Botanic GardenRare birds of the Mission Canyon area include: Golden-winged Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Summer TanagerBirds you might see or hear: Specialty birds of the Mission Canyon area include: Band-tailed Pigeon, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Hutton's Vireo, Brown Creeper, Purple Finch, California Towhee, Black-headed GrosbeakSanta Barbara City ParksSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: Description: Within the city of Santa Barbara there are several parks worth exploring. The habitat is varied and includes oak woodland, native botanical gardens, riparian habitat and coastal bluff. The generally mild climate on the south coast in winter means Santa Barbara has a long list of over-wintering rarities, and regular and consistent visits by local birders have turned up great birds in these city parks. Tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, hummingbirds, flycatchers, and warblers in particular, are regular migrants in the oaks, pines, blooming eucalyptus and riparian corridors in many of these parks. Adjacent neighborhoods with exotic plantings with hummingbird feeders are also worth looking through. See the City of Santa Barbara Parks map icon for details about several more locations. Explore these eBird Hotspots:•Bohnett Park•Skofield Park•Hidden Valley Park - Arroyo Burro Creek•Stevens Park - San Roque Creek•Shoreline Park•Alice Keck Memorial Gardens•Oak Park•Orpet ParkBirds you might see or hear: California Quail, Allen's Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Cassin’s Kingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, California Scrub-Jay, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Hooded Oriole, Western TanagerAndree Clark Bird RefugeSeasons: sp | fa | wi Map: +Hotspot:Description: The bird refuge lagoon often contains a variety of common gulls, ducks, grebes and phalaropes in season. Many of these birds are tame and approachable owing to handouts from park visitors. Wood Ducks are present in fall and winter. Look for night-herons, egrets and cormorants roosting on the islands in the center of the lake, and walk the trail from the parking lot westward to find Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats and winter sparrows. Great-tailed Grackle is now a common fixture at the Bird Refuge. A number of rarities have been spotted here including: Hooded Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, Common Moorhen, Franklin's Gull, Neotropic Cormorant, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Palm Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, and a county record LeConte’s Sparrow was discovered here.Birds you might see or hear: Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Eared Grebe, Virginia Rail, Sora, Black-necked Stilt, Ring-billed Gull, Forster's Tern, White-faced Ibis, Cassin's Kingbird, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln’s SparrowSanta Barbara Beaches, Harbor & BreakwaterSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Hotspots:Fee: Description: There is fee parking in the lots at the harbor and wharf, or you may find street parking at no cost if you arrive early. The outfall channel from Garden Street forms a pool at the beach that is a common gathering spot for gulls and terns. The county's largest concentration of Black Skimmers is found around the Mission Creek outfall. These birds are usually approachable for study or close-up photography. There have been as many as ten gull species in winter, including Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull. Scan offshore for loons, grebes and scoters. Walk along the sand of East Beach to check for more gulls and shorebirds. Snowy Plover is fairly common here. Across East Cabrillo Blvd. from the beach is Chase Palm Park. This narrow park strip can be worth birding in fall. Wintering loons, scoters and grebes are a common sight in the harbor west of East Beach or well seen from the wharf. Red-throated, Common and Pacific loon can be found here. In fall, winter and spring, walk the breakwater for rocky shorebirds for turnstones, Surfbird and Wandering Tattler. Rare birds found at the beach, in the harbor include: White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Franklin’s Gull.Birds you might see or hear: Surf Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Clark’s Grebe, Black Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Gull, Black Skimmer, Brandt’s Cormorant, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature ParkSeasons: sp | su | fa | wi Map: +Hotspot:Description: Visiting the Salt Marsh Reserve at the Ash Ave. overlooks can be good for watching egrets, herons and waterfowl. This is a regular location for Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Santa Barbara County. Rarities of the salt marsh include Hooded Merganser, Ridgway’s Rail (extirpated), Wilson’s Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, Wood Stork, Little Blue Heron.Birds you might see or hear: Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, American Avocet, Semipalmated Plover, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Say’s Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Marsh Wren, Savannah Sparrow