Winter Birding with Save Mount Diablo

From seasoned birders with hawk-like eyes for spotting birds to fledgling beginners, Mount Diablo offers awesome birding opportunities. Learn from Save Mount Diablo's pros.

More than 200 bird species have been spotted on Mount Diablo. Some of these birds include the peregrine falcon, the fastest critter in the world; the nationally renowned bald eagle; and our state bird, the California quail.

Local experts say the best time to go birding is from mid-April to early June, but you will always find birds here year-round. With April quickly approaching, now is a great time to work on your birding skills!

We’ll share with you some of Mount Diablo’s best spots.

Mitchell Canyon

White-crowned sparrow. Photo by Scott Hein

Mitchell Canyon is many birders’ favorite location on the mountain! Located on the north side of the park, Mitchell Canyon is easy to access and features a gradually inclining fire road. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can take this road all the way up to the summit. However, you don’t need to walk far to find birds here. In fact, you’ll probably be hearing them as soon as you step out of your car.

You will always find residential birds (birds who don’t migrate and are around all year) when coming to Mitchell Canyon. Some of these birds include the California quail, California scrub jay, acorn and Nuttall’s woodpecker, oak titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, Bewick’s wren, and wrentit.

At this time of year, you can find the white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrow. These birds like wintering here, but they will head off to their breeding grounds by the end of April, so you’ll have to act quick!

As these sparrows leave, spring migrants will come and take their place around March. Some of these migrants will stay and nest including the warbling and Cassin’s vireo, orange-crowned warbler, black-headed grosbeak, house wren, and ash-throated flycatcher.

Mitchell Canyon offers plenty of places to explore. You can access White Canyon, Donner Canyon, and Back Canyon from Mitchell Canyon, all of which offer excellent birding and views. Check out our regional trail map for information on how to get there.

Golden eagle and older chick. Photo by Michael Sewell

Pine Canyon

Located in Walnut Creek on the southwestern side of Mount Diablo, Pine Canyon has lots of chaparral birds, like Mitchell Canyon. Pine Canyon also has much more water than Mitchell Canyon, and you will be able to find a variety of water birds that are difficult to find elsewhere in the park!

Some of these birds include the lark sparrow, white-throated swift, chipping sparrow, and Bullock’s oriole. Watch out, if you come here after rain you will likely encounter several tricky creek crossings.

You also have better chances to find birds like the golden eagle and the peregrine falcons . . . perhaps Pine Canyon’s most famous residents. These birds can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour!

Peregrine falcons were at one point extinct in the Mount Diablo area. After many years of hard work from bold biologists and determined volunteers, the peregrines returned. Watch their uplifting story.

Want to Be a Part of a Global Bird Count?

February 12 to 15 is the Great Backyard Bird Count.

During these three days, you can record what birds you see in a given period for a worldwide bird count. You can participate from just your backyard for as little as 15 minutes, or you can go out to Mount Diablo to record your findings. This is a great excuse to go and find some birds!

In 2020, more than 250,000 people participated from over 194 countries. They identified 6,942 bird species! You can be the one that helps put Mount Diablo’s birds on the count.

Thanks to Scott Hein, Save Mount Diablo staff and volunteers, and the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association for providing great resources on birding on Mount Diablo.

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