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Birdwatching in Big Bear

Top Birdwatching (Birding) Spots in Big Bear

Big Bear, California is a paradise for birdwatching, or “birding,” enthusiasts! Nearly 300 species of birds call the area home, including Golden Eagles, White-tailed Kites, Ospreys, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Prairie Falcons and more. If you’re looking to take in some of the views and try spotting some birds with your own eyes, you can explore many trails offering excellent birding opportunities. Or if you’d like a guide to help prepare for your next outing in Big Bear, visit the Chirp Nature Center! Located on site, they offer supplies, checklists, and maps so that you can have an awesome experience and see your favorite birds. They even provide group guided walks led by passionate fellow birders – an excellent way for beginning “Birders” to learn more about the hobby. Big Bear birdwatching awaits you!

Article Breakdown

  • Top 10 Birdwatching Trails
  • Popular Species of Birds in Big Bear
  • Facebook Group
  • Need a Nest (cabin) to Stay?

Top 10 Birdwatching Trails & Hotspots

Knickerbocker Canyon:

Experience the beauty of nature at Knickerbocker Canyon and incredible birdwatching! Just a short drive from the Big Bear Lake Village, this secluded area is every birding enthusiast’s jam. Here you can experience of some of California’s most treasured birds such as Brown Creepers, Green-Tailed Towhee, Woodpeckers, and Mountain Chickadees. There’s something particularly special about this area; the peaceful ambiance created by the beautiful native plants combined with the soothing sound of birds chirping in harmony all around. Check out the Knickerbocker Canyon for an authentic exploration and birdwatching.

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Bluff Lake:

Bluff Lake attracts nature-lovers from all over Big Bear. Its roughly a 18-acre lake that supplies an open meadow with a wealth of vegetation, complemented by a ring of pine woods for a unique biodiversity that supports numerous species of birds. If you’re lucky, you might grace these tranquil waters with sightings of Purple Finch, Gadwall and Dark-Eyed Junco. Just a short stroll away is a nature-lover’s dream destination: the largest Lodgepole Pine in the world reaches towards the sky, begging to be marveled at.

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Happy Hills Trail and Metcalf Creek:

Happy Hills Trail is the ideal spot for new and experienced birders alike. To get started, take a leisurely stroll along the .2 mile path that begins at Big Bear Lake City Hall. Along the way, you’ll pass picnic tables and historically significant buildings as you meander toward Metcalf Creek. Once there, keep your eyes peeled for Blackhearded Grosbeak, Cliff Swallow, Anna’s Hummingbird nectaring on wildflowers. With free public parking nearby and both easy and intermediate trails to explore, it’s no wonder that Happy Hills Trail has become a popular destination for new birders eager to enhance their spotting skills. PS. This is also ADA-compliant for easier access (just verify before entering).

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Meadow’s Edge:

Meadow’s Edge is a beautiful stroll along Big Bear Lake’s North Shore packed with scenery and awesome bird-watching. You’ll have a chance to admire American Coot prancing through the shallow waters, Violet-Green Swallow showing off, and Double-Crested Cormorants flexing their wings, all along a flat trail that goes through pine forests and open meadows. What’s more, this short path connects to another prime birding destination – Juniper Point – so you won’t have far to travel a quick break with BBQs and picnic tables. And best of all, parking is available around the picnic area itself, so it’s accessible and suitable for everyone in the family to explore.

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Sandalwood Marsh:

Nestled around Big Bear Lake lies a hidden gem of a birding hotspot known as Sandalwood Marsh (aka Von’s Marsh). This tranquil trail is can be easily accessed by parking along Sandalwood Drive. The trail delivers stunning lakefront views for peaceful birdwatching and sensory sounds of bird chirping and water splashing to appreciate nature’s beauty. The Sandalwood Marsh allows for sightings of Mallard, beautiful yellow Western Tanager, the tall Snowy Egret, and speedy Osprey. Might be one of the most diverse locations for birding in Big Bear.

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Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve:

Baldwin is a protected wildlife area that is an easy hike to get through. The marsh surrounding the water and large trees offer a ton of birdwatching action.

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Juniper Point:

Juniper is a nice little resting point with picnic area. It’s very easy to get to and provides really great opportunities to spot herons and more. Once you’re done birding, take a break to BBQ or bring a pole for some fishing.

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Stanfield Marsh:

Stanfield Marsh is a protected preserve with a ton of marsh lands perfect for birds to rest (such as herons, water fowls and ducks). This is one of the easier walks you can go on packed with excellent scenery.

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Grout Bay:

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Bow Canyon:

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Popular Species of Birds You Can See When Birdwatching in Big Bear

  • Black-crowned Night Heron: Have a stocky build with a thick bill, as well as a sleek and stylish coloration on their body. The head and wings of this bird are covered in rich gray feathers, contrasting elegantly against the white belly. What makes them even more admirable is their resilient nature, living in several different habitats such as swamps, marshes, wet meadows and lakeside areas within Big Bear.
  • Green Heron: Green Herons are a unique breed of avian compared to other herons. Not only are they shorter and stockier than most others, with shortened legs and thick necks, but their wingspan has surprising breadth and their long daggerlike bills give them an undeniably distinguished look. To complete the package, these herons have a mohawk and can raise their crown feathers into a crest! Who knew something so small (tipping the scales at eight ounces) could be such an elegant creature? Their impressive 25 inch wingspan is also mightily impressive for such a small bird. 
  • Cooper’s Hawk: The Cooper’s Hawk is a beautiful bird of prey and one of the easier species to identify in the wild. Its rounded wings, large head, and broad shoulders make it stand out from other hawks. Plus, its unique pattern of steel blue-gray above and warm reddish below makes it quite distinguishable. 
  • Golden Eagle: The Golden Eagle is an impressive sight indeed. With a strong-built frame and very large body, it is an iconic bird with pale brown feathers and a radiant golden-brown glow on its back and head. Its size is absolutely astounding; with a wingspan measuring at 80 inches or more, you’ll be nothing less than impressed with the sheer size of these magnificent birds.
  • Bald Eagle: This iconic bird needs no introduction, nor description! If you have never seen one in person, be ready to be amazed. Big Bear is so lucky to host these magnificent bird.
  • Northern Harrier: The Northern Harrier is a stunningly beautiful bird that catches the eye with its aggressive, owl-like face and strong build. The males have striking gray feathers and females have brown streaking for a wonderful contrast. Watching these regal birds hunt is an experience that should not be missed – they are masters of the air in their low, maneuvering flights as they stalk their prey. 
  • Long-Eared Owl: Long-Eared Owl is an intimidating looking bird that can be fun to listen to, but sometimes hard to spot because of their camouflage feathers. They really blend in well to the trees of Big Bear. We hope you’re lucky enough to spot one of these bird – please take photos and share!
  • Canadian Goose: Another bird with almost no-need for introduction. This fan-favorite bird is striking, large, and easy to spot here at Big Bear.
  • Ruddy Duck: Ruddy Duck might be one of our favorite birds to watch here in Big Bear. It’s really wild to see such a compact duck with a bright electric blue bill. 

Many… many more species to see here at Big Bear!

Need Supplies or Maps? Visit the Chirp Nature Center

Supplies, Maps, and More: Chirp Nature Centers are essential for the avid birdwatcher. Their selection of birdwatching supplies is really good, offering a perfect blend of items ideal for your next nature expedition and products that can be used while birding in the convenience of your own backyard. Start off by grabbing a beginner’s kit – it has all you need to get up and running. Then, choose from titles of helpful books to provide guidance on what birds you may see, plus pick up binoculars to give you an extra sharp view.

Guided Walk: Typically, each year Chirp Nature Centers offers guided birdwatching walks every Saturday from May till October. You will be able to join other fellow birdwatchers on a journey through nature to experience Big Bear’s most beautiful feathered creatures. 

Address: 578 Bonanza Trail Big Bear Lake, California 92315

Phone: (888) 412-4477

Want to Join the Coolest Birding Facebook Group in Big Bear?

Join 100s of avid birdwatching enthusiasts in Big Bear! Seriously, these people LOVE birds and will tell you some of the hidden gems in Big Bear to go Birding. Really wonderful group of people all around.

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Looking for a Temporary Nest (Cabin Rental)?

Doesn’t birdwatching in Big Bear sound like a ton of fun? Yeah, we thought so! Alright, so if you’re serious about going Birding, you’re going to need a temporary nest (or cabin rental) to stay. We recommend browsing our awesome selection of cabin rentals packed with incredible amenities and really close to some of the birding hotspots mentioned above.