With an ideal combination of mild winter weather, abundant food, and rich quantities of water, the area attracts a huge wintering population of waterfowl and raptors, making it an ideal location for Northern Californian bird watching throughout most of the year.
The Llano Seco Viewing Platforms south of Chico provides what is arguably the most spectacular wildlife viewing in Northern California. On the elevated platforms, you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of birds you can see, including unusual migrating species in the fall, like the black-bellied plover, and less common duck species, like the Eurasian Wigeon, in the winter.
In Gridley, the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is perhaps the most well-known birding site in Butte County. The well-marked nature trail makes for a refreshing walk with spectacular bird viewing of more than 230 bird species across the 9,200-acre wildlife area. During the winter migration, you’ll likely be rewarded with a dusk “fly-off” of thousands of Snow Geese and other waterfowl filling the sky. You can also enjoy an exhibit museum, seasonal tours, and excellent car viewing.
In the spring, you’ll find trees jam-packed with warblers, vireos, tanagers, and grosbeaks at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. If you’re willing to brave the mid-summer heat, a trip to the Chico Oxidation Ponds will likely showcase rarely seen southerly migrating species, such as the semi-palmated sandpiper--just make sure to call ahead for permission. In Oroville, the Thermalito Afterbay and Thermalito Forebay provide great vantage points for viewing waterbirds as well as more rare raptor sightings than anywhere else in the area.
Whether you’re an avid birder following your own migration or a beginning birder who doesn’t know a bluejay from a sparrow, we know you’ll have a great time spotting birds wherever you visit in Butte County. You can also find great resources for all who want to bird in Butte County from our friends at the Altacal Audubon Society.
More on Birding from NPR
As you explore the aviary wonders throughout the county, we would love for you to share what you see with us. Post your photos on social media and #BirdButteCA for a chance to win a prize package worth more than $250. Our team will review the photos and pick a winner each month November through January. So get out there and get birding!
Even with restrictions due to COVID, Butte County continues to shine with ample opportunities to socially distance outdoors, grab a delicious meal on a patio, or start your holiday shopping. Whatever your adventure, we hope you take a minute to search the skies during this great migration.