If world-class birdwatching is on your bucket list, check it off right here. Santa Cruz County is a favorite destination of birders.

Well over 200 bird species populate our county, some quite rare. They’re attracted by diverse habitats including redwood rainforest, coastal prairies, interior chaparral, and woodlands.

Our local bird life even contributed to a famous movie once. In 1961, thousands of sooty shearwaters rose from the ocean’s surface and crashed into homes and businesses in Rio Del Mar. Confused by a fog, they’d flown towards the town lights. Alfred Hitchcock used the story as research for his 1963 thriller, The Birds.

Today, shearwaters and other migrating species still swarm along the Pacific Flyway from the Southern Hemisphere—some from as far away as New Zealand. They pause to rest on Santa Cruz County's shores and inland areas—or, like tourists, stay for the season.

To view our county's abundant birdlife, visit the following hotspots:

Watsonville Wetlands

Watsonville’s Elkhorn Slough is a research reserve in the county’s coastal wetlands. The National Audubon Society and the American Birding Conservancy have designated it a Globally Important Bird Area.

An biologically diverse link between land and sea, the slough teems with kites, plovers, pelicans, hummingbirds, egrets, Cooper’s hawks, band-tailed pigeons, kestrels, and more. Bird watching is easy here. Well-used trails offer access through grasslands and wetlands.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Natural Bridges, at the end of West Cliff Drive, comprises several habitats including grasslands, freshwater wetlands, marshes, and beach—all accessible on foot. Of course, this means you’ll find a wide variety of birds. Typical sightings include black-and-white shearwaters, cormorants, ducks, flycatchers, hawks, black-bellied plovers, and more. Bring your camera!

Nicene Marks State Park

Nicene Marks has 42 miles of trails—a practically endless opportunity for enthusiastic birders! The park’s habitats include grassland, chaparral, woodlands, and forest. Here, look for Pacific wrens, American dippers, winter wrens, hummingbirds, warblers, dark-eyed junkos, owls, and many more. Several owl species are known to populate the dirt lot near the entrance. If you visit at dawn or dusk, you might get that sighting you’ve been waiting for!

Other popular birding places include Moss Landing State Beach, Neary Lagoon, and any of our state and county parks.

If you want guidance and bird-passionate comradery, consider joining Santa Cruz Bird Club. This active group welcomes birders on local hikes and activities throughout the year. The club’s popular Christmas Bird Count helps track bird populations each year, and includes a dinner. This year, it’s free!

When you’ve finished an early morning birding walk, why not take advantage of this weekend’s open houses? Click here to see the list!

Are you looking for the perfect birder’s home? We may know just the place! Call us at (831)818-4321, or contact us here.