Gridley Outdoor Adventurer Birding

Best Birdwatching Spots in Butte County

Stretch­ing from the Bering Strait off the coast of Alas­ka to the south­ern­most tip of South Amer­i­ca, the Pacif­ic Fly­way ranks as one of the great­est migra­to­ry path­ways in the world. Mil­lions of birds rep­re­sent­ing hun­dreds of species use this great avian high­way each year, and nowhere is this abun­dance of wildlife more acces­si­ble than right here in Butte County.

Win­ter Birding

With an ide­al com­bi­na­tion of mild win­ter weath­er, and abun­dant food and water, the area attracts a huge win­ter­ing pop­u­la­tion of water­fowl and rap­tors, mak­ing it an ide­al loca­tion for North­ern Cal­i­for­nia birdwatching.

This migra­tion, espe­cial­ly of the majes­tic snow goose, is cel­e­brat­ed annu­al­ly at the end of Jan­u­ary with the Snow Goose Fes­ti­val of the Pacif­ic Flyway . The four-day cel­e­bra­tion includes field trips, work­shops, exhi­bi­tions, and oth­er activ­i­ties revolv­ing around a vari­ety of geese, ducks, herons, rap­tors, and more, all in their nat­ur­al splendor.

Even if you can’t make it to the Snow Goose Fes­ti­val, you can still enjoy spec­tac­u­lar bird­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties when­ev­er you visit. 

The view­ing plat­forms at the Llano Seco Unit south of Chico pro­vide 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.

Spring Bird­ing

In the spring, you’ll find trees jam-packed with war­blers, vire­os, tan­agers, and gros­beaks at the Big Chico Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve. For some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, a trip to the Chico Oxi­da­tion Ponds will like­ly show­case rarely seen souther­ly migrat­ing species, such as the semi-palmat­ed sand­piper. Access to the Oxi­da­tions Ponds are only avail­able through guid­ed trips held by the Alta­cal Audubon Society , so fol­low them on Face­book or view their field trip cal­en­dar for announce­ments about upcom­ing fieldtrips.

—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.

Fall Bird­ing

Oth­er bird­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties are abun­dant in the fall, when a vari­ety of species make the return migra­tion from their moun­tain breed­ing spots and become eas­i­er to spot as the trees lose their leaves.

Trip Tips

Sea­soned bird­ers know that any­one can get into this easy activ­i­ty, and that it’s a great way to explore places you’ve nev­er been! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Wear com­fort­able walk­ing shoes, bring binoc­u­lars, and down­load a bird­ing app (or use the Explore Butte Coun­ty fall and win­ter bird­ing brochure)
  2. Dress for the ele­ments and the season
  3. Respect the habi­tat and min­i­mize your foot­print so that every­one can enjoy the space
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