Migratory Birds: What to look for at Mount Diablo This Summer

swallow on a rock looking back at the viewer

If you’re interested in bird-watching, then you’re incredibly fortunate to be living near one of the best birding hotspots in California, Mount Diablo.

Throughout the year, Mount Diablo has over 150 observable species of birds. Many of those birds are migratory, so we can’t see them all year. Each time of the year brings ample opportunity to see new birds, summer included.

During the hot summer, migratory birds will generally seek water and refuge from the heat in valleys with plenty of nooks and crannies.

Some of the best birding areas include

  • Mitchell Canyon
  • Pine Canyon
  • Rock City
  • Donner Canyon
grass underneath the shade of oak trees

Donner Canyon. Photo by Scott Hein

Check out our free trail map on our website for more information on where to find these areas.

Mitchell Canyon has a visitor’s center at 96 Mitchell Canyon Road in Clayton, and Donner Canyon can be accessed from the end of Regency Drive in Clayton.

Rock City is near the summit of Mount Diablo and located just off one of Mount Diablo State Park’s main roads. Pine Canyon can be accessed from Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

Birds to Look For on Mount Diablo

In the summer months, birders can catch glimpses of migratory birds such as vireos and flycatchers that aren’t around during the cooler months. A lot of these birds will leave by the beginning of August, so grab your binoculars and see them before they’re gone!

Cassin’s vireo. Photo: Dominic Sherony / CC BY-SA

Observable migratory birds include

  • Cassin’s vireo
  • Violet-green swallow
  • Purple finch
  • Swainson’s thrush
  • Western wood pewee
  • Ash-throated flycatcher
  • Cliff swallow

If you’re interested in learning more, check out eBird!

grey and white bird on a branch

Ash-throated flycatcher. Photo: Becky Matsubara / CC BY

Mitchell Canyon: A Birding Hotspot within a Hotspot

Mitchell Canyon is one of, if not the best, birding hotspots on Mount Diablo. It is a mainly riparian (streamside) oak woodland—providing a lot of water and food for birds. There, birders can enjoy numerous sightings on one of the most accessible trails in the park.

Within Mitchell Canyon, 44 percent of the observable bird species are migratory, with the majority flying north from Mexico.

According to our Senior Land Use Manager, Juan Pablo Galvan Martinez, “Mitchell Canyon is the equivalent to a five-star resort for migratory birds.” During hot summers, the shade and three-dimensional structure of Mitchell Canyon make it an ideal place for birds to rest and hunt.

trees on the hillside of Mitchell canyon

Mitchell Canyon. Photo by Scott Hein

Top photo: Violet-green swallow. Becky Matsubara / CC BY

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