San Diego County Summer Birding

The summer birding season in San Diego County encompasses June to mid-September.  From now until mid-July, treat yourself with a visit to one of the breeding grounds of the California Least Tern—an endangered subspecies of Least Tern (Sterna antillarum browni).  The local colony, at the western end of Batiquitos Lagoon just south of Oceanside in Carlsbad, is most easily seen from South Ponto Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway. When the lagoon was dredged and re-opened to the tides in the mid-1990s, several artificial sand flats were installed there for Least Tern nesting. Park along the southbound side of the highway (if you can find a spot) and point your optics east across the highway toward the fenced-off sand flats.  The nearly constant, high-pitched chatter of the Least Terns confirms you’ve found the spot.

Post-breeding dispersal can result in odd species showing up just about anywhere. And seabirds begin their southbound migration as early as July.  Join San Diego Region Birding (operated by the San Diego Field Ornithologists) to stay abreast of the latest sightings.  For example, in early June, a Magnolia Warbler appeared at Cottonwood Park in Encinitas, south of Oceanside.  In mid-May a Baltimore Oriole appeared in a Carlsbad birder’s yard; late May brought a Rose-breasted Grosbeak to a feeder in the same yard.  Mid-May also had reports of four pairs of Redheads at the San Dieguito Lagoon in Del Mar, the only consistent nesting site for these birds in recent years in the county.  Pelagic trips are back on—August 16 and September 19, both 12-hour trips out of San Diego and sponsored by Buena Vista Audubon Society in Oceanside.  If you’re interested, you can find trip details, prices, past trip reports, and possible bird sightings at

And if you have some individual species you’re interested in finding, don’t forget about the “explore data” tab on eBird.  Good birding!

about the author

After birding for a quarter-century in Colorado, Tina and her family recently moved to Oceanside, where she’ll probably spend the next quarter-century trying to remember that the mountains now lie to the east. Tina is a guest blog contributor that will be sharing her insights and discoveries as she explores Southern California with her binoculars, scope, and field guide.

To learn more about regional birding opportunities, contact the Buena Vista Audubon Society and Nature Center

Seasonal Birding

OCEANSIDE California

Published: July 6, 2020

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