Birding Secrets: Where Can You Find Birds in Spring?

western bluebird
western bluebird / Scott Hein

Spring is finally here, and if you like birds, it’s time to get excited.

The soft-spoken American poet Emily Dickinson wrote that “March is the Month of Expectation.” She was a meticulous bird watcher, often adding backyard birds to her poems.

March 20th marks the transition from winter to spring this year. As the days get longer, there will be more time to enjoy blooming wildflowers, burbling creeks, and singing birds.

But what birds can you expect for springtime?

Well, wintering birds, like the white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrow, are leaving to head to their spring breeding grounds. Soon, we’ll see spring migrants coming in.

Different birds are on different migration paths. Some will come up from as far as South or Central America and nest here. And some birds live on and around Mount Diablo year-round.

Regardless, Mount Diablo and its foothills are home to a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, chaparral, oak woodlands, and riparian areas. By moving from one environment to the next, you’ll be sure to find different birds. We’ll share with you where you can find these habitats and what birds you can find there.


chaparral at black diamond

Mount Diablo is well known for its chaparral birds. A chaparral environment features rocky soil and thick shrubs that are difficult to move through. Mount Diablo provides relatively easy trail access for you to catch a glimpse of the secret life of chaparral birds.

On Mount Diablo, you can find these habitats at Wall Ridge, Knobcone Point, Pines Picnic Area, Pioneer Horse Camp, Muir Picnic Area, and White Canyon. Many bird species live in this environment year-round, like California and spotted towhees, California thrasher, and elusive Bell’s sparrow.

Many birds, however, are beginning to migrate to or through chaparral environments. Below is a list of some of the spring migrants that visit chaparral:

  • Calliope hummingbird (rare, but they have been seen in White Canyon and Back Canyon)
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Lawrence’s goldfinch

Here are some more birds you can find year-round:

  • California quail
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Western scrub-jay
  • Wrentit


Grasslands at lime ridge

In the Mount Diablo area, good places to find grasslands are Round Valley, Morgan Territory, and Lime Ridge. Here are some birds you might see there:

  • American kestrel
  • Cliff swallow
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • Western meadowlark
  • Golden eagle
  • Horned lark
  • House finch
  • Lark sparrow
  • Savannah sparrow (will probably be gone by mid-May)
  • Wild turkey

Oak Woodlands

oak woodlands at black diamond mines

Oak woodlands are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in California, supporting an amazing array of life. Mount Diablo has both oak woodlands and oak savannas; savannas have less canopy cover and are more open than woodlands. You can find oak woodlands at Perkins Canyon, Shell Ridge, and Donner Canyon. Here are some birds you might see there:

  • Acorn woodpecker
  • Ash-throated flycatcher
  • Bushtit
  • California scrub-jay
  • Cedar waxwing
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Great horned owl
  • Nuttall’s woodpecker
  • Oak titmouse
  • White-throated swift


riparian habitat at march creek 8

Riparian habitats are found alongside the banks of rivers, streams, or other moving bodies of water. Creeks and streams can be found all over Mount Diablo, as well as ponds where you can find water birds. You may want to visit Pine Pond in Pine Canyon, although crossing the creeks to get there can be difficult. There is also a pond between Mitchell Canyon and Donner Canyon, but you can also hike alongside the creek up Mitchell Canyon. Here are some birds you might see in riparian areas:

  • Killdeer
  • Nutall’s woodpecker
  • Black phoebe
  • American goldfinch
  • Lesser goldfinch
  • House finch
  • Bushtit
  • Townsend’s warbler
  • Spotted towhee

Explore the migration status of different birds

See more of Mount Diablo State Park’s birds

This post was created with information from Save Mount Diablo staff and volunteers and the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association

Selected Birds on and around Mount Diablo

American kestrel
(Falco sparverius)
Scott Hein

Burrowing owl
(Athene cunicularia)
Scott Hein

California quail
(Callipepla californica)
Bob Brittain

Cedar waxwing
(Bombycilla cedrorum)
Bob Brittain

Great horned owl
(Bubo virginianus)
Scott Hein

(Charadrius vociferus)
Bob Brittain

Red-breasted sapsucker
(Sphyrapicus ruber)
Bob Brittain

Red-winged blackbird
(Agelaius phoeniceus)
Bob Brittain

Turkey vulture
(Cathartes aura)
Scott Hein

Western bluebird
(Sialia mexicana)
Scott Hein

Wild turkey
(Meleagris gallopavo)
Bob Brittain

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