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Winter Birding Opportunities on the Bay Trail

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The Bay Trail encompasses the San Francisco Bay, the west coast’s largest estuary and a vital stop for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. From overwintering waterfowl to rare raptors, enjoy the wonderful winter birdwatching along the trail.

The Bay Trail, staffed and funded by MTC, is a planned 500-mile shoreline path that passes through 47 cities, 130 parks and across seven toll bridges. The Bay Trail has space for walking, jogging, biking and hiking, and offers additional recreation opportunities along the waterfront path that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

The winter months in the Bay Area include seasonal highlights for bird enthusiasts, such as:

  • The annual herring spawn in Richardson Bay, bringing a wide variety of birds (and sea lions) that can be easily seen from the shores of downtown Sausalito
  • Black Turnstones and Surfbirds scour the rocky shoreline in fall and winter at the Coyote Point Recreation Area
  • At the Palo Alto Baylands, sometimes Short-Eared Owls emerge at dusk. Look for the small breeding population of Black Skimmers and Barrow’s Goldeneye at nearby Shoreline Lake
  • The eucalyptus forest of the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline is inhabited by many Yellow-Rumped Warblers in the winter
  • At Alviso Marina, the levees around the marsh host large flocks of sparrows, and the islands in the pond provide an excellent study of gulls
  • The tidal marsh at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline along San Leandro Bay in Oakland provides habitat for endangered Ridgeway’s Rails and many other shorebirds and waterfowl
  • The mosaic of uplands, sloughs and marshes of the Hayward Regional Shoreline is a paradise for Northern Harriers in the daytime, and hunting grounds at night for Short-Eared Owls
  • The John F. Kennedy Park trail is at the same level as the Napa River, so waterfowl are easily viewed here in the winter

Celebrate the peak of the winter migration season and join the 27th annual San Francisco Flyway Festival, taking place virtually from Feb. 11-13.

Learn more about year-round opportunities for birding on the Bay Trail. Birdwatching is just one of many passive recreation activities for Bay Area residents on the more than 350 miles of paths that make up the Bay Trail.

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