barn swallow on a barbed wire fence in Northern California

Birding in Northern California

Photo by Micah Silver

Birding in Northern California

Plumas County offers some of the best birding opportunities in Northern California for both novice and experienced birders. Nearly 300 species of birds spend part or all year in Plumas County–from tiny songbirds to Greater Sandhill Cranes; from seasonal shorebirds to soaring raptors; there are always birds to be seen. 

Plumas County is located along the Pacific Flyway and has a diversity of habitats including mountain valleys, lakes, meadows, and creekside and conifer forests. Nothing is more exciting than seeing a species for the first time in its natural environment.

Where to Bird in Plumas County

Bring your binoculars because birding can be done everywhere and by everybody visiting Plumas County. You can add a stop to a birding hotspot as you travel to a trailhead, or pack your checklist and plan for a “Big Day”.

Northwest Plumas

High mountain meadows in Lassen Volcanic National Park, spring-fed creeks and wild forests of the Caribou Wilderness, and the marshes and open water of Lake Almanor offer spectacular and diverse birding opportunities in this corner of Plumas County. The Olsen Barn Meadow is a great place to bird all year round. The fields, creekside forests, and wetlands surrounding the Barn are part of an Audubon-designated “Important Bird Area”.  Six favorite birding spots in the Lake Almanor Basin

Spring and Summer Species

  • American White Pelicans
  • Clark’s and Western Grebes
  • Yellow Warblers
  • Willow Flycatchers
  • Greater Sandhill Cranes
  • Osprey 
  • Mountain Bluebirds

Fall and Winter Species

  • Northern Harriers
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Bald Eagles
  • Great Horned Owls
  • Tundra Swans

South Central Plumas

American Valley (home to Quincy), nearby Snake Lake, Bucks Lake, and the Bucks Lake Wilderness are all interesting places to bird, with varied habitats. Enjoy soaring raptors and waterfowl in and around Quincy in late fall and winter, or plan a late spring kayak around Snake Lake for migrating shorebirds and nesting cranes.

Spring and Summer Species

  • Waders like Sandhill Cranes and Killdeer 
  • Red-winged Blackbirds 
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Western and Mountain Bluebirds
  • Say’s Phoebe and other flycatchers 
  • White-headed Woodpecker
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
  • Western Tanager

Fall and Winter Species

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Northern Flicker
  • Canada Geese 
  • migrating Snow Geese
  • Black Phoebe
  • raptors like Northern Harrier
  • Spotted Towhee

Southeast Plumas

While birding is fantastic across Plumas County, the Southeastern region hosts Sierra Valley, a top birding destination in Northern California. With expansive wetlands, open grasslands, sagebrush scrub, and nearby forests, Sierra Valley is a geographic marvel and is abundantly rich in birds, some of them uncommon and rare in California.

Spring and Early Summer Species

  • Yellow-headed Blackbirds
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Black-necked stilt
  • American Avocet
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Sage Thrashers
  • Burrowing Owls 
  • Swainson’s Hawk

Fall and Winter Species

  • Short-eared Owls 
  • Ferruginous Hawks
  • Bald Eagles
  • Variety of raptors

Plumas Eureka State Park has a beautiful creekside forest along Jameson Creek with tall cottonwoods and riparian species. And don’t forget Lake Davis–visitors often see Osprey and both Bald and Golden Eagles.

North Central Plumas

Take a drive with binoculars along the country roads of Greenville, Taylorsville, and up towards Antelope Lake. Black oak woodlands meet conifer forests and large valley ranches with plenty of open space for wildlife to roam. While the impacts of the Dixie Fire can be seen on the hillsides and mountains, many bird species thrive after wildfire. 

The picturesque mountain meadows of Indian Valley and Genesee are where many birds nest and rear young. Spring is extra special with bird songs filling the air.

Spring and Summer Species

  • Mountain Chickadees
  • many species of swallows including Bank Swallows
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Lewis Woodpeckers 
  • Western & Clark’s Grebes 
  • large variety of warblers
  • Acorn Woodpeckers 
  • Western Tanager 
  • Clark’s Nutcracker

Fall and Winter Species

  • Red-Shouldered Hawks
  • Eagles
  • Owls
  • Wild turkeys
  • Black-billed Magpie

Know Before You Go

  • Safety first! Always check weather and road conditions before an outing.
  • Leave no trace–take all trash with you, do not trample vegetation, and stay on designated roads and trails
  • Keep your distance and do not disturb wildlife. Learn more about ethical birding.
  • Leave dogs at home or on leash during nesting season, especially when visiting meadows and wetlands.

Best times to Bird

Early spring through early summer is peak birding season in Plumas County. Mid-March through May is exceptionally exciting with many migrants and breeding season birds. But don’t disregard fall and winter–large raptors and waterfowl frequent our mountain valleys and wetlands in colder months. 


Learn more about birds and biodiversity in Plumas County

Birding in Sierra Valley

Did You Know?

The National Audubon Society has identified two Important Bird Areas (IBA) within Plumas County– Lake Almanor and Sierra Valley. AND Plumas County is home to 30 special status (rare, threatened, or endangered) bird species!


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Lake almanor

Lakefront condominium on the Lake Almanor Peninsula with boat slip.

Lake Almanor

Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a two week vacation, Knotty Pine Resort and Marina offers you an opportunity to leave the city behind!

Canyon Dam

A family owned/operated resort since 1928, featuring 9 cabins, 25 RV sites, marina, cafe and a commitment to providing an amazing vacation experience