The Bolsa Chica Wetlands are an important migratory stop as well as nesting grounds for many avian species! Because of this Bolsa Chica, along with the rest of Huntington Beach, CA, has some of the nation’s best birding! Nearly half of the birds found in the U.S. have been seen in Huntington Beach. A fabulous 321 out of Orange County’s 420 bird species were sighted here in the past decade. The area covered by the checklist found below includes the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Harriett Wieder Regional Park, and several small open-space areas of private ownership adjacent to the north end of the reserve. Harriet Wieder Regional Park is a 104-acre park operated by the County of Orange and is adjacent to the south end of the reserve. The park has a parking lot accessed from Seapoint Avenue in Huntington Beach.
Abundance for each species is designated by the symbols on the first page of the checklist. The numerical categories for each abundance level reflect approximations on the part of the compilers. Abundance codes apply to the bird in its expected habitat. Species are listed in accordance with the American Ornithologists’ Union Checklist of North American Birds, 7th edition (1998) as amended through the 52nd supplement.
This is a question often asked by visitors at the wetlands. There is not a single answer to this question. Typically any time you visit the wetlands there will be plenty of birds to observe, especially when compared with residential and urban areas. There are certain times when more species can be observed than others and this also depends on what area you plan to visit.
There are two major seasons when you can see large numbers of birds:
- The height of this season is November-February. This is the best time to see shorebirds, ducks, loons and other species that migrate from their northern ranges in the summer to Bolsa Chica and southern ranges in the winter. From the Mesa trail many of these birds can be viewed at low tide.
- The height of this season is April-August. This is the best time to see terns, avocets, Black-necked Stilts, and Western Snowy Plovers that migrate here from southern regions that they occupy during winter months. For these species Bolsa Chica is the perfect place to nest. This is a good time to visit the South Lot and observe the nesting islands and dunes where many of these birds nest.
- Though during September, October, and March there is a lull in the number of birds that can be seen, do not let this discourage a visit to the wetlands in search of birds. Many birds are migrating through during these months, and there are opportunities to see interesting avian visitors and rare bird sightings occur during these months.
- This is an excellent time for viewing birds. Many birds that have been inactive during night become very active in the morning in search of food. Also, at this time the lighting is behind the wetlands thus providing the viewer with excellent conditions to see birds. The loop trail beginning at the south parking lot is a great place to start early in the morning as well as the Pocket Loop near the Mesa Overlook.
- As the tide recedes, often hundreds of shorebirds (particularly during winter months) come to feed on the exposed mudflats. We recommend arriving about an hour after the high tide peaks during the day. This is especially important when viewing full tidal areas like outer bay. A great trail to take during low tide is the Mesa Trail which begins at the north parking lot. To check the tides during your visit