Half Moon Bay’s many wetlands and natural preserves create an inviting environment for more than 200 species of birds — creating a birdwatching paradise. The feature photo above was taken along the Coastside/Bluff Trail just above Poplar Beach.


Here is a list of the top birdwatching locations around Half Moon Bay:

  1. Coastside Trail — Half Moon Bay
    Half Moon Bay State Beach 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA  (650) 726-8819The Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail runs along the eastern boundary of the four Half Moon Bay area beaches providing close to three miles of multi-use trails to walk, jog or ride bikes.The green space that runs along the trail  at Poplar Beach is ideal for watching a variety of birds ranging for Blue Herons to Red Tail Hawks.  The photo of the hawk sitting on the split rail fence was taken at this location.  (Poplar Beach is operated by the City of Half Moon Bay.)  For more information, please visit https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/coastside-trail/.
  2. Pillar Point Harbor: Pillar Point Harbor is a great place for bird watching, as it is home to a wide variety of water birds. You can spot pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, and more. The best time to visit is during the winter when migratory birds such as loons and grebes visit. More information at https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/pillar-point-harbor/
  3. Pillar Point Bird Refuge
    Located just 4 miles north of Half Moon Bay is the Pillar Point Marsh. It consists of two types of marshes: a fresh water stream marsh that drains into a brackish water marsh (a mix of fresh and sea water) where plants are salt tolerant.The sponge-like soil controls flooding during heavy rainfall and the plants in the marsh serve as a filter to purify polluted runoff water — providing a healthy environment for the many birds and animals who live and visit the marsh.This unique marsh may be small, but it is an important habitat for local and migrating birds where bird watchers at Pillar Point Marsh have sighted nearly 20% of all North American bird species.Directions: From Hwy. 1, take Capistrano Road to Pillar Point Harbor. Go through the harbor entrance to Prospect Way and turn left on to Broadway.  Take the immediate left on Harvard and go to the end of road. Turn right on West Point Avenue and continue to the Pillar Point Marsh parking lot. More information at https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/pillar-point-bird-refuge/
  4. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve: Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a popular spot for bird watching due to its diverse ecosystem that supports a wide variety of birdlife. Visitors can spot songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, and seabirds such as the black oystercatcher and pigeon guillemot. More information at https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/fitzgerald-marine-reserve/
  5. Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve:
    Hwy 1, 16 miles south of Half Moon Bay  (650) 879-2170Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is a 243-acre wetland area that is home to many bird species, including ducks, geese, herons, egrets, and more. Visitors can hike the marshland trails or kayak along the waterways for a close-up view of the birdlife.Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is a popular spot for bird watchers and other naturalists. The Reserve is a refuge for blue heron, kites, deer, raccoons, foxes and skunks.
    As one of the most important remaining wetlands on the California Coast,  each year thousands of birds rest and feed at the preserve — providing a wonderful opportunity to watch almost 200 species of birds.The best bird watching times are late fall and early spring.  For more information, go to https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/pescadero-marsh-natural-preserve/

    If you are interested, the Audubon Society offers walking tours.

  6. Half Moon Bay State Beach: Half Moon Bay State Beach is a popular destination for bird watchers as it is home to many seabirds, such as the western snowy plover, marbled godwit, and sanderling. Visitors can also spot raptors such as the northern harrier and the white-tailed kite.
  7. Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park: Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park is a great place for bird watching, especially during the spring and fall when migratory birds pass through. Visitors can spot songbirds, raptors, and shorebirds such as the black-necked stilt and the long-billed curlew. More information at https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/burleigh-h-murray-ranch-state-park/.

Remember to bring your binoculars, a field guide, and wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Enjoy your bird watching adventure in Half Moon Bay!