This vast national seashore north of San Francisco boasts the largest avian diversity of any national park.
By Chuck Graham | Published: 10/18/2017
Located 30 miles north of the Golden Gate, Point Reyes National Seashore is a birding mecca. With an abundance of diversified habitats surrounding its prominent peninsula, the birding at Point Reyes is arguably the most fulfilling in the Golden State.
Point Reyes is the only national seashore on the West Coast. Several marine protected areas along its western boundary fortify the seashore’s value to wildlife. On the east edge of Point Reyes is 15-mile-long Tomales Bay, the largest unspoiled coastal embayment on the California coast.
The park offers no shortage of opportunities to see birds. It has 150 miles of hiking trails, and you can bird from a kayak on Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero. With nearly 490 bird species documented, Point Reyes boasts the largest avian diversity of any national park; in fact, 50 percent of North America’s birds have been spotted on the narrow peninsula.
The location along the Pacific Flyway and the peninsula’s topography make it a magnet for birds. While all birds at Point Reyes are protected, the Western Snowy Plover and Northern Spotted Owl receive extra attention to ensure their survival.
Chuck Graham is a freelance writer and photographer (chuckgrahamphoto.com) who often writes about birds in California. He also wrote about Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Carpinteria, Hotspot Near You No. 116, Soda Lake, Bakersfield, No. 123, Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area, Guadalupe, No. 138, Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, Santa Barbara, No. 151, Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, No. 154, Mendocino Headlands State Park, Mendocino, No. 167, Hearst San Simeon State Park, Cambria, No. 185, Pinnacles National Park, No. 200, Agua Fria National Monument, Black Canyon City, Arizona, No. 203, Ormond Beach and Wetlands, Oxnard, No. 227, Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Idaho Springs, Colorado, No. 234, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, No. 248, and Mt. Pinos, Los Padres National Forest, No. 258.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Beaches, ocean, bluffs, estuaries, freshwater lagoons, forests, coastal sage scrub, grasslands.
Flat to hilly. Moderate hiking.
490 species. Red-throated, Pacific and Common Loons, American White and Brown Pelicans, grebes, cormorants, herons, Greater White-fronted and Cackling Geese, Cinnamon Teal, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Barrow’s and Common Goldeneye, mergansers, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, White-tailed Kite, Ferruginous and Red-shouldered Hawks, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Northern Spotted Owl, California Quail, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Snowy Plover, Hermit Thrush, Mountain Bluebird, Yellow-rumped and Hermit Warblers, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee. Unusual: Brown Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, King Eider, Tufted Duck.
When to go
Visitor centers, restrooms, interpretive areas, kayak rentals, camp sites. Park offers ranger-led education programs. Point Reyes National Seashore Association offers classes and programs about birds, butterflies, and other parts of nature.
National seashore with several state-owned beaches. Open year-round. No entrance fee. In winter, park offers shuttle buses from Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center to Chimney Rock and Point Reyes Lighthouse; $7 per person.
Bring rain gear in fall and winter.
For more info
South of Point Reyes on Hwy. 1. Accessible at Pine Gulch Delta, at the end of Wharf Rd. in Bolinas, and via the beach from Stinson Beach. Major stopover and wintering site for waterbirds and shorebirds.
About 30 miles north of Point Reyes Station. Protected estuary and harbor attracts waterbirds. More than 300 species tallied, including Black Rail, Brant, and Snowy Plover.