Winter Birding in San Diego County
Mid-December to mid-March officially bracket the winter birding months in San Diego County, even though they are mild by most Northern Hemisphere standards. All habitat types except for the highest mountains offer interesting and comfortable winter birding here.
By December, most of the birds present are either year-round residents or migrant species that have been hanging around for several months. Every winter seems to bring an errant shorebird or sea bird (a White-winged Scoter at Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad), predominantly eastern warblers (a Black-and-white Warbler at the San Elijo nature loop in Carlsbad), an unusual raptor (a Zone-tailed Hawk cruising the grounds at the Safari Park), and not-rare-but-unusual-for-our-area birds (a Common Grackle and Yellow-headed Blackbird at Del Mar Public Works).
Join San Diego Region Birding (operated by the San Diego Field Ornithologists) or Birding San Diego to stay abreast of all the latest sightings. If you like to chase rarities, you’re often in luck, since wintering rarities tend to linger a bit once they arrive. (Who wouldn’t?) The winter regulars, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows, appear everywhere. Check any bush or tree sporting red berries for fruit-loving birds such as Cedar Waxwings or American Robins. Many species of wintering waterbirds—American White Pelicans, Eared Grebes, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks—troll the coastal lagoons such as Buena Vista, Batiquitos, and San Elijo Lagoons. By February, some long-distance migrants begin to arrive in advance of spring. For instance, a few early arriving swallows can be found over the lagoons, swooping and zipping after flying insects. If you’re looking for a particular species, don’t forget to check eBird.
Whether you’re seeking specific birds or just want to enjoy species that show up, check eBird leave the winter parkas, gloves, balaclavas and boots behind and enjoy some warm-weather winter 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.