This former army base, now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a great place to look for songbirds, hummingbirds, shorebirds, and herons.
By Audrey Medina | Published: 12/17/2013
Spanish, Mexican, and American flags have flown over the Presidio since 1776. Today the historic grounds, buildings, and artifacts are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. New vista points, interpretive signs, and trails lead the way.
The Presidio has no shortage of great places to bird. Since 2001, Crissy Field, along San Francisco Bay, has been transformed from a military airfield into a tidal marsh that teems with shorebirds, herons, and other birds.
At Inspiration Point, near the south edge of the park, you’ll find spectacular views as well as towhees and woodpeckers. Nearby lies El Polin Spring, where a natural spring and restored watershed attract hummingbirds, flycatchers, sparrows, and finches. Even at the end of summer, the spring is the best birdbath around, and its benches make a nice lunchtime hangout. From the spring I usually follow the Ecology Trail into woodlands to look for Pygmy Nuthatches.
A variety of habitats and the Presidio’s location on the Pacific flyway give the area one of the most diverse bird populations of any urban park in the world. Don’t miss it. — Audrey Medina
Audrey Medina is a freelance travel writer whose stories appear regularly in the San Francisco Chronicle. She often writes about birding, nature, and outdoor recreation.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Coastal scrub, mixed woodlands, tidal marsh, grasslands, shorelines, springs, four-acre lake.
Flat to hilly. Well-maintained trails. Many areas wheelchair-accessible.
230 species. Year-round: Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Brandt’s, Pelagic, and Double-crested Cormorants, Anna’s Hummingbird, Western Grebe, Snowy and Great Egrets, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Pelican, Song and White-crowned Sparrows, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Bushtit, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Western and California Gulls. Spring through fall: Allen’s Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole, Caspian Tern, Violet-green Swallow, Wilson’s Warbler. Fall through spring: Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Clark’s Grebe, Heermann’s Gull, Willet, Least Sandpiper, Surf Scoter, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Snowy Plover (rare).
When to go
Picnic areas, restrooms, several restaurants. Visitor center in Building 105 on Montgomery St. open Thursday to Sunday, 10-4. Occasional family bird walks.
National park. Open 24 hours. No fees, free parking. Bus routes 28, 29, and 43 serve the Presidio. Free park shuttle.
Birds can be seen at parking lots and picnic areas. Prepare for foggy mornings and sunny afternoons. Bring water for hikes.
For more info
Lands End and Sutro Heights
Southwest of the Presidio in San Francisco. Hotspot Near You No. 11. Ocean birds, shorebirds, land birds, and great views.
Just north of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands. Hotspot Near You No. 172. Spectacular hawk watch.