Marin County offers some of the best bird watching on the Pacific Coast. The Point Reyes National Seashore offers some of the finest bird watching in the United States. The Park’s 70,000 acres of habitat are host to almost 490 avian species, both in the park and on adjacent waters. The park’s coastal location and unspoiled habitats attract many migrating and wintering birds. The Point Reyes area consistently reports one of the highest tallies in the county every year during the Christmas bird count.
Some of the best places to view birds in the park are: Five Brooks Pond, Estero Trail, Muddy Hollow Trail, Abbotts Lagoon, the Lighthouse rocks and cliff areas and Bear Valley. For more information, please visit www.nps.gov/pore.
Researchers at the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) catch and band birds daily from April 1 to November 30. The most likely times to find birds are during the breeding season in June and July. Visitors are normally welcome to visit all four of PRBO’s centers in Marin, but due to COVID this has been restricted. For COVID updates, please visit www.prbo.org.
Key bird watching areas include:
Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands
Just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge lays the Marin Headlands, location of one of the best places to view hawks. During the fall migration, September and October, 2,000 hawks a day pass over this area. They gather here to catch the thermal wind currents necessary to cross the waters of the Golden Gate. To reach the Headlands take Highway 101 to the end of the Golden Gate Bridge, then take the Alexander Avenue exit and follow signs for the Marin Headlands and Conzelman Rd. Continue on the road up to its high point, Battery 129. From there, walk up to the hilltop for the best viewing.
Las Gallinas Ponds in San Rafael
The Las Gallinas Sanitary district has created freshwater and saltwater ponds that, along with the nearby tidal marshes, have produced an exception bird habitat. Observers have sited more than 180 species of birds, including the endangered clapper rail. From Highway 101 in San Rafael take Smith Ranch Road east to McInnis Park. Turn left on Smith Ranch Road and travel to the end.
Other areas for bird viewing include: Angel Island State Park, Bolinas Lagoon Preserve, China Camp State Park, Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Watershed, Muir Woods National Monument, Olompali State Historic Park, Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Tomales State Park.