When you visit Golden Gate Park, keep an eye out and an ear peeled for birds nesting, resting, feeding, and singing; you may be surprised by all the activity going on! The park is an important stop for many birds on their migration routes, and there are plenty of interesting resident birds here, too. You may see a hawk or a heron out hunting for a meal, a hummingbird zooming from flower to flower, a woodpecker drilling away at a tree trunk, or a great horned owl resting high up in a branch. You’re almost sure to see ducks and geese paddling in one of the many ponds and lakes, and to hear songbirds piping around you.
It’s important to keep in mind that birds operate on a sometimes unpredictable schedule. The dates provided here should be used as a general guide only.
- In trees: Anna’s hummingbird
- In lakes: Pied-billed grebe
Suggestion: Remember to exercise caution when visiting marshes at any time of year.
- In marshes: Great blue heron
- In trees: Great horned owl
- In trees and tall shrubs: Anna’s hummingbird
Suggestion: Take a few quiet moments to look for nest-building or nest-sitting activities. Listen for the birds’ spring songs.
- In trees and tall shrubs: Allen’s hummingbird
- In trees: Almost all tree-nesting birds begin nesting mid-month
- In trees: Tree swallows
- In trees: Hawks, owls, ravens, and a multitude of songbirds
- In lakes: Ducks
- In trees: Songbirds like juncos and warblers
- In lakes: Transient ducks and geese
Nesting and Breeding Birds
- In trees: Nesting/breeding activity is reaching its peak. Some baby birds are beginning to fledge.
- In lakes: Cormorants and herons in large numbers.
- In wooded areas: An increase in migratory arrivals and departures.
- In trees: Many species, including downy woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch, house finch, and Brewer’s blackbirds, are starting to fledge their young, which are still very much dependent on their nests.
- In marshes: Nesting species like the song sparrow, marsh wren, and common yellowthroat are at their peak.
- Many land bird species continue to move through–for instance, cedar waxwings
- June is the beginning of the end of nesting season, though the feeding of young will continue until late July.
- Migration is all but over by mid-June.
Suggestion: June is critical breeding season. Gardeners, visitors, and especially visitors with dogs, please keep an eye out for fledglings and reroute to avoid them.
- July 15 marks the end of the nesting season, though young nest-lingerers may be noted into mid-August.
- Beaches and mudflats: The first fall migrants begin to arrive.
- In trees: Most nesting is over by mid-month.
- In wetlands: Late-nesting great blue herons usually fledge their young by mid-month. Double-crested cormorants may continue to nest into September.
- This month marks the arrival of the first migratory hawks and other land birds.
Suggestion: Migrants are beginning to arrive and will need food. When possible, fruiting shrubs should be allowed to complete their cycle before they are disturbed.
- In trees and fields: Hawks and neotropical migrants.
- In marshes and mudflats: Shorebirds by the hundreds of thousands with frequent spillovers into parklands near the shores.
Suggestion: Keep in mind that San Francisco lies along a main migration route, the Pacific Flyway, and bird migration is now in full swing, so vast numbers of birds need to rest and feed in the city and by the bay.
- Migration of songbirds, hawks, and shorebirds peaks, then declines.
- On the other hand, ducks begin to increase as temperatures drop and the rains begin.
- Resident species settle down for the winter, finding shelter in trees, brush, snags, buildings, and backyards.
Suggestion: Keep in mind that wintering birds often depend for shelter on the very “unsightly” features that are likely to be scheduled for removal, like dead trees, brush piles, and fallen trees. Also, birds depend on food sources like nectar-producing plants, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, insects, and seeds. Tall grasses are also vital in this season for the shelter, seeds, and other food they provide.
- Migration has slowed down considerably.
- There are few besides the regulars, like Anna’s hummingbirds, in the beginning of the month, but by the end of December great horned owls have started their nesting cycle.
Note of appreciation: Much of the information in this almanac was contributed by Dan Murphy, a member of the Golden Gate Audubon Society San Francisco Conservation Committee, and Josiah Clark.