Watsonville's Wetlands

Hundreds of species of birds call the Watsonville Wetlands home

Merlin Falcon

Wilder Ranch is host to many birds, including the Merlin Falcon

The Snowy Plover

A threatened species, but plentiful on south county beaches


Hummingbirds thrive at the UCSC Arboretum

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Birding Adventures

Request Birding & Wildlife Kit  |   Bald Eagles nest in Watsonville!

Located along the Pacific Flyway on California's spectacular Central Coast, Santa Cruz County is a premier birding destination. Its rich diversity of habitats attract upwards of 400 species of resident and migratory birds. In the old-growth forest of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, you can catch sight of the Marbled Murrelet flying through the trees at dawn. You'll find Snowy Plover skittering across the sandy beaches at Pajaro Dunes. Waterfowl dive and dabble at Wetlands of Watsonville's freshwater marshes. Hummingbirds dart among the exotic flora at the Arboretum at UCSC. And at the renowned Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, you can walk the trails or kayak the waters to see over 340 different species of birds that pass through or find permanent refuge at the slough.

To request a Birding and Wildlife Guide for Santa Cruz County, click here.

Birding Resources    


Arboretum at UCSC
A world famous public garden. Plant collections from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and California.
Santa Cruz, CA | 831.427.2998 | visit web site | more info


Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Features 2,000 year-old redwoods over 80 miles of trails. Guided walks available. Leashed dogs allowed on paved roads only.
Boulder Creek, CA | 831.338.8860 | visit web site | more info


Parks, Bird Watching

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Visitor center & five miles of trails through oak woodlands, grasslands, fresh & saltwater marshes, seasonal wildlife.
Watsonville, CA | 831.728.2822 | visit web site | more info

Bird Watching

Santa Cruz Bird Club
Santa Cruz, CA | Please see website | visit web site | more info

Museums, Bird Watching

Wetlands of Watsonville Nature Center
Offers exhibits on wetlands animals & history, family activities, bird watching, and more. Exploration walks Sundays at 1:30.
Watsonville, CA | 831.768.1622 | visit web site | more info


Parks, Bird Watching

Neary Lagoon
Abundant wildlife, trails, small play area, tennis courts & interpretive signage. No dogs allowed in wildlife refuge area.
Santa Cruz, CA | 831.420.5270 | visit web site | more info

EventsSee All Events

Saturday & Sunday

Docent-led Tours of Elkhorn Slough Reserve
Meet at the reserve and then learn about this unique area on a guided tour.
Watsonville, CA | 831.728.2822 | visit web site | more info



City of Watsonville Nature Walks
Guided exploration walk in the wetlands. Meet at the Nature Center. Binoculars provided. Great for all ages!
Watsonville, CA | 831.768.1622 | visit web site | more info


First Saturday of each month

Early Bird Tour
Tour with professional birder Rick Fournier, one of our volunteer docents. Day use fee of $4.00 for each visitor, 16 years and older. Tour begins promptly and lasts 2-3 hours.
Watsonville, CA | 831.728.2822 | visit web site | more info



Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria

Delicious desserts, pastries, salads, sandwiches & more

Comfort Inn - Santa Cruz

Stained glass windows & over-sized spas available.

Kayak Connection

Kayak tours & rentals daily, beginners welcome!

Edgewater Beach Inn & Suites

Across from beach & wharf, beautiful gardens.

Top Birding Spots in Santa Cruz County!

Check out a local birding experts top picks


Watch Video

303 Water Street, Suite 100
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
800.833.3494 or 831.425.1234