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Birding Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, California
Birding Around Las Vegas, Favorite Places Far Away

Salton Sea
Birding the Salton Sea

Description

Located on the southeast corner of the Salton Sea, the Wildlife Refuge includes several habitat types with birds specific to each. Refuge Headquarters has mesquite thickets with water and seed feeders, making it the best place to see ground-doves, quail, and other seed-eating species. The shoreline includes mud flats with wading birds and seawalls with divers. Specially designed and protected islands provide habitat for Least Turns.

Refuge Unit One, located at the south tip of the sea, provides freshwater marshes where ducks, geese, and shorebirds can be abundant. Always watch for Burrowing Owls when in these areas.

Birding the Salton Sea

Location

The Salton Sea is located in the low deserts of southeastern California. Access from the north is via Interstate 10, and access from the south is from Interstate 8.

The National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is located at the southeast corner of the Salton Sea between the town of Niland and Calipatria. From Highway 111, which runs along the east side of the Salton Sea, watch for signs and turn west on Sinclair Road, which runs right into refuge headquarters (northwest corner of Sinclair and Gentry Roads).

Link to Area Map or Google Site Map.

Birding the Salton Sea

Amenities

The birdwatching areas at the Salton Sea are located in wild desert and rural farming country with few amenities in the immediate vicinity. The cities of Brawley and El Centro to the south provide everything. Smaller towns provide essential services.

The headquarters building has rest rooms and picnic tables.

Birding the Salton Sea

Hours

Day-use in the Headquarters area; always open elsewhere, but consider it to be day-use only.

Fees

None.

Birding the Salton Sea

Specialties

The Refuge bird list sports some 400 species (including 93 nesting species), plus they list 41 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles, 4 species of amphibians, and 15 species of fish.

The refuge provides critical wintering and migration stopover habitat for over 400 species of birds, including some 30,000 geese (Snow Geese, Ross's Geese, and Canada Geese), and 60,000 ducks during November through February. Endangered species observed on the refuge include Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Brown Pelicans, Yuma Clapper Rails, and Desert Pupfish. Sensitive species on the refuge include Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Wood Storks, Long-billed Curlews, Mountain Plovers, Snowy Plovers, Burrowing Owls, Least Terns, and White-faced Ibis. Watch for feral Flamingos too!

Birding the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea supports lots of specialty birds, but it is a great place to see vast numbers of Eared Grebes and Brown Pelicans, and it is a good place to see Burrowing Owls and Common Ground Doves. Keep an eye out for Blue-footed Boobies, Yellow-footed Gulls, and other oddities.

For More Information

Visit the Sonny Bono Refuge website. There are lots of online resources (google Salton Sea bird watching).

Birding the Salton Sea
Shoreline area
Birding the Salton Sea
Obsidian Butte area
Birding the Salton Sea
Obsidian Butte area
Birding the Salton Sea
Obsidian Butte area
Salton Sea
Dike access to Obsidian Butte (ahead in distance)
Birding the Salton Sea
Obsidian Butte area
Salton Sea
North-facing seawall area (view W)
Salton Sea
North-facing seawall area (view E)
Salton Sea
Dead Blue-footed Booby in Seawall area
Salton Sea
Beach off west-facing seawall area
Salton Sea
West-facing seawall area
Salton Sea
Double-crested Cormorant tree along the west-facing seawall
Salton Sea
Burrowing Owls at artificial burrow
Salton Sea
Keep an eye out for artificial burrow markers
Salton Sea
Barn Owl trying to sleep in palm tree at refuge headquarters
Salton Sea
Common Ground-Dove at refuge headquarters
Salton Sea
Start of Rock Hill Trail below viewing platform at refuge HQ
Salton Sea
Rock Hill Trail trail sign
Salton Sea
Rock Hill Beach (view NW)
Salton Sea
Rock Hill Beach (view NW)
Salton Sea
Rock Hill Beach (view SW)
Salton Sea
Tern nesting pond (view NE)
Salton Sea
California Least Tern breeding islands
Salton Sea
California Least Tern breeding islands in protected pond
Salton Sea
Birder looking for California Least Terns
Salton Sea
Dead Blue-footed Booby at the base of Rock Hill
Salton Sea
Least Tern breeding pond and islands (view SE from Rock Hill)
Salton Sea
Birding from atop Rock Hill (view N)
Salton Sea
Mixed bird on mud flats (view N from Rock Hill to Red Bluff)
salton sea
Feral flamingo (view N from Rock Hill)

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140107

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