Bird Watching at Pinnacles National Park

The Pinnacles National Park is to San Jose’s southeast and Soledad’s east. It is also located in the east of Central California’s Salinas Valley. The park’s name is a tribute to the remains of a volcano that has long eroded on the western side and has since shifted into the San Andreas Fault line, 200 miles from its original place. The 26,606-acre park covers Monterey County and San Benito county.

Major Attractions at Pinnacles National Park

It is possible to come across at least 200 species in the Pinnacles National Park on a birdwatching trip. Additionally, lots of people come to the west side to climb up one of the many spires.

The Bear Gulch Cave trail makes you feel as if you are in the midst of a movie. However, it is a 1.5-mile road that is quite dark, so that you would want your flashlight with you. The Hike Moses Spring Trail ends at the Bear Gulch Reservoir, which is at 377 feet elevation. The trail is lined by huge volcanic structures that almost cover the sky. No one that comes to Pinnacles National Park ever misses out on camping, especially when birdwatching comes free with it.

Bird Watching at Pinnacles National Park

California alone has recorded 710 birds as residents and migrants. The Pinnacles National Park appears to have been visited by at least 181 of those species. The habitat of the park is satisfying for the bird species, with its grassland, riparian, woodlands of oak and pine, and chaparral.

The east side Pinnacles visitor center and the campground might be the park’s best location for birding. There are water sources made in the area by humans, just the edges of different habitats such as chaparral, riparian and oak, pine trees. Here, you might come across California Quail, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-shouldered Hawk, and many more. Some Warblers and Flycatcher species who are in the middle of migrating also show up here.

The Bear Gulch Nature center is specifically for birding, but as you leave the center and go over to the reservoir while crossing the Moses Spring Trail, you can come across the likes of Bushtit, Canyon Wren, Spotted Towhee.

The High Peak is both for seeing the entire park from a good vantage point and birding. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers might migrate here while California Condors are present year-round. The rock formations are especially frequented by Condors. The Balconies Trail starts from the parking lot and the chaparral trail. On the way, you might spot Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, Swallows, Towhees, Canyon Wren.

10 Birds to See at Pinnacles National Park

California Quail

California Quails are large and round with a gray body and a head plume. Their plume looks like one big feather, but is actually 6 feathers overlapping. You can find this Quail in California as well as the northwest U.S. As building in coastal areas has increased, the population of California Quail has declined. California Quails make their homes along woodland edges, in parks, and farms. They roam around looking for seeds and insects to eat. They lay 10 to 16 eggs and build their nests on the ground. These Quails do not migrate.

  • California Quail

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches are white, but also has black and gray markings. They live throughout North America. Their population is steady with a slight increase. They make their homes near forests, groves, and shade trees. These nuthatches are active and enjoy eating insects and large seeds. White-breasted Nuthatches are a small bird with a loud voice. They lay 5 to 9 eggs. These birds protect their nests to keep predators away. They are not a migratory bird; however, they have been seen moving south from the north.

  • White Breasted Nuthatch

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees are black with bright white spots on their wings and back with orange sides. You can find them in western North America. Their population is common and widespread. They make their homes in open woods, undergrowth, and brushy edges. Spotted Towhees mostly stay on the ground, but will climb into lower branches for insects and fruit. They lay 3 to 5 eggs and build their nests on the ground or low in a tree. Spotted Towhees in the north migrate, but the birds in the south are permanent residents.

California Condor

California Condors are a magnificent, large, black bird with an orange head. They are the largest bird in North America, but are endangered. At one time, there were only 22 California Condors. Now there are approximately 230 free flying California Condors and 160 in captivity. They live in open country in the hills. They can survive 1 to 2 weeks without eating! When they do find a carcass to eat, they eat all they can. They only lay 1 egg at a time and they take care of their young for almost a whole year. There has been no proven migratory pattern, since they have spent much of their time in captivity.

California Condor in Wild

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are blue-gray with a white edged tail. They live throughout North America. Their population is stable and increasing some. They make their homes in oaks, pines, and thickets. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are known by their soft call and has the nickname “Little Mockingbird”. These birds mostly feed on insects and sometimes spiders. They lay 4 to 5 eggs in nests made from plants, bark, grass, feathers, and animal hair. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers migrate south by day.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagles have beautiful gold feathers, a strong beak, and large talons. You can find these birds in western North America. Historically, there has been a decline in their population, but their population is now steady. They make their habitat in open country and mountains. Golden Eagles are one of the fastest and largest raptors in North America. Golden Eagles enjoy soaring with their steady wings to hunt for small animals such as squirrels. They lay 1 to 3 eggs and usually build their nests on ledges of cliffs. Golden Eagles in the north migrate, but most are permanent residents.

Golden Eagle

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers have a sleek black body with a white and red head. They live near oak trees in the southwest U.S. Their population is widespread and common in their range. They make their homes in oak woods and groves. These woodpeckers spend a lot of time gathering and storing acorns in holes they drill into trees. Acorn Woodpeckers make a loud, parrot-like noise. They eat a lot of acorns and different insects in particular; they like ants. These birds lay 3 to 7 eggs in the cavity of a dead tree. They are permanent residents in their range, but have been seen as far south as Colombia.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbirds have beautiful green feathers and pink throats. They live along the Pacific Coast of the United States. Their population is steady, and they are very common within their range. They make their homes in gardens and open wooded areas. Anna’s Hummingbirds are small birds and do not weigh more than a nickel! They have small legs and cannot hop or walk. These birds lay 2 small white eggs which hatch in 14 to 19 days. They migrate east to west in their range but are a permanent resident of the Pacific Coast.

Annas Hummingbird

California Thrasher

California Thrashers are brown with very long tails. They are the largest of the thrashers. Their bills are also long and curved, which helps them pick up and eat insects and other prey. You can only find them in California. They are common, but have disappeared in some coastal regions. They make their homes in valley thickets, parks, and gardens. California Thrashers imitate other birds’ sounds, such as the California Scrub-Jay. They build their nests lower to the ground and lay 3 to 4 eggs. California Thrashers are permanent residents and do not migrate.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles are dark brown, and their heads are covered in white feathers. They live throughout North America. These birds were once endangered; however, now they are flourishing because they are protected. They make their homes near rivers, large lakes, and coasts. Bald Eagles are the national bird of the United States. They usually soar through the sky alone. They lay 1 to 3 eggs and both parents feed and care for the young. As winter comes, they gather in groups sometimes known as “soars” and migrate south.

  • Bald Eagle

Final Thoughts

At Pinnacles National Park, spotting the California Condor, an endangered species alone, can make the whole trip worth it. The diverse habitat of the park means you would come across all kinds of species. While it would be helpful to keep a spotting scope or a binocular with you along with a field guide, make sure to spend actual time observing the bird. Sometimes, you could be too busy identifying the bird species that you forget to pay attention to them.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing birds at Pinnacles National Park is the 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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