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San Diego

This months featured birding locaiton…

San Diego, California

Sunny, southern California is a great place to go birding and to mix in a little family time to boot.

When to go
Like many southern locations  –  fall, winter and spring can all be good times to visit. The San Diego Bird Festival is typically held in early March, a good indication of a prime time to visit the area.

Where to go
The San Diego Audubon Society has an excellent web site that provides information on good birding locations in the area, the best birding times and driving directions.  What more could you ask for?

Which birds?
Many “most wanted” birds can be found in the area. In fact, about 500 species have been recorded in San Diego County.

The San Diego Natural History Museum maintains a list of the species recorded in the county with an indication of the seasonal presence.

lesser goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch – © Tom Grey

Here are just a very few of the possible species.

Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Pacific Golden Plover
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Hutton’s, Least, Bell’s Vireo
Western Grebe
California Gnatcatcher
Lesser Goldfinch
Black-headed Grosbeak
Tricolored Blackbird

San Diego Birding Festival
If you are new to birding in the San Diego area a great way to get acquainted is to attend the San Diego Birding Festival.  The event is usually held in early March and is one of the programs of the San Diego Audubon Society.

The festival usually has a pelagic trip or two, which can turn up some very nice birds.  Festival bird totals usually run into the 240-250 total species reported!

San Diego Audubon maintains an excellent web site, a must visit resource if planning your first birding trip to the area.

pacific golden plover
Pacific Golden Plover – © Tom Grey

Best place for drinksThe Lodge at Torrey Pines
After a hard day of birding it is sometimes fun to clean up and relax.  One of my favorite locations in the entire country is the Lodge at Torrey Pines.  Located on the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, views of the course and distant ocean are special.  The lodge is gracefully designed into the surrounding landscape.  Several small seating areas are provided for cozy conversations and to enjoy the view.  The lodge is also a great place to stay but this 5-star lodge is not inexpensive.  The Torrey Pines course is public but advanced tee times are a necessity.  Birding around the lodge is good and it is a short distance to Torrey Pines State Park.  It can be cool in the evenings so check the local weather and be prepared with a sweater.

There are many hotels in the San Diego area. Mission Bay is the location of the San Diego Birding Festival and San Diego Sea World.  Here are a couple of nearby choices.

A Holiday Inn Express San Diego-Sea World Area
‪3950 Jupiter Street, San Diego, CA‬
‪(619) 226-8000‬
About $120.00 a night.

Heritage Inn

Right across the stereo from the Holiday Inn is the Heritage Inn.  Not fancy by any means but at less than half the cost of the Holiday Inn it is not a bad choice for a hard-core birding trip.  I would not recommend it for families.

The Dana on Mission Bay is the host hotel for the San Diego Bird Festival.  Some nice grounds and within a long walk from the Festival headquarters. I found it to be overpriced for the quality of the rooms and service.

Pelagic Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant © Tom Grey

More information
Joe Morlan maintains a list of sites with information on birding in the San Diego area.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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