by Jennifer Dawson Courtesy of Discover Siskiyou

No matter what kind of outdoor adventurer you are, Siskiyou County offers a totally unique experience in the heart of California’s real North. From hidden waterfall views to dreamy stargazing opportunities, you’ll find no shortage of amazement, everywhere you go — including over 200 species of birds that call this region home. Check out this insider’s spotlight on the best spots for birdwatching while you’re here.

Marble Mountains Wilderness, Shasta Valley Wildlife Area, and Lava Beds National Monument are hidden gems in Siskiyou County, promising unparalleled birdwatching experiences amidst stunning landscapes and diverse habitats. From the pristine forests and alpine meadows of Marble Mountains — home to the Western Tanager and Varied Thrush — to Shasta Valley’s serene wetlands and grasslands, where the elegant Sandhill Crane find sanctuary, these destinations are a must-visit for bird enthusiasts. Similarly, Lava Beds National Monument provides a unique backdrop for spotting avian species including Say’s Phoebe, Rock Wren, and Sage Thrasher amidst rugged volcanic terrain.

Marble Mountains Wilderness — a stunning 241,744-acre wilderness area within the Klamath Mountains range — stands as a testament to nature’s untouched beauty. Despite its expansive size and remarkable biodiversity, the Wilderness remains relatively secluded, offering birdwatchers a serene and uninterrupted environment to explore and spot a wide variety of bird species in their natural habitat, undisturbed by human presence. Here, you have the chance to encounter the distinctive Western Tanager — a colorful bird with a bright yellow body and black wings, often found flitting among the branches of coniferous trees, particularly in forested areas along the trails. Also, keep an eye out for the Hermit Thrush, solitary songbirds who like to forage on the forest floor.

The Sky High Lakes Trail, in particular, passes through a variety of serene habitats — such as, forested areas, meadows, and lakeshores — providing opportunities to encounter species like Mountain Quail, American Dipper, and Varied Thrush. It’s a moderately difficult trail with some steep sections, offering a rewarding adventure for hikers who enjoy a challenge. Depending on your pace and how much time you’d like to spend exploring the wilderness, completing the trail can take anywhere from a few hours to the whole day.

Nestled in the northern reaches of Siskiyou County, the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area sprawls across a landscape of wetlands, grasslands, and sagebrush scrub, providing a haven for a wide variety of avian species and offering a unique birdwatching experience away from the crowds of more popular destinations. Spotting the majestic Sandhill Crane is a true highlight here. These elegant birds, with their long legs and distinctive red caps, are often seen gracefully moving through the wetlands and grasslands, offering a truly special sight for visitors to enjoy. You may also spot the elusive Sagebrush Sparrow amidst the sagebrush scrub. With their subtle plumage blending seamlessly with their arid surroundings, these secretive sparrows can be seen perched atop shrubs or darting swiftly between the brush, so be sure to keep a keen eye on the landscape.

When exploring Shasta Valley Wildlife Area, wear waterproof hiking boots and stick to established trails to minimize the risk of encountering muddy or boggy terrain. It’s also essential to prioritize the well-being of birds and their habitats — so keep a safe distance and minimize disturbances like loud noises or sudden movements. Similarly, it’s just as important to prioritize bird well-being back at home by providing food, water, and shelter in your own backyard. You can also make your windows bird-safe by applying window decals or installing screens to prevent collisions. Since birds often can’t see transparent surfaces, making your windows more visible is a small action that has a significant impact on bird safety and conservation efforts.

Lava Beds National Monument — located in northeastern California — is home to numerous elusive avian species like Say’s Phoebe, Rock Wren, and Sage Thrasher amidst rugged volcanic landscapes and ancient lava flows, providing an unmatched birdwatching experience. Explore the short yet steep Schonchin Butte Trail leading to the summit of Schonchin Butte, offering amazing opportunities to spot majestic birds of prey soaring overhead, including Red-tailed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. While Say’s Phoebes can be found throughout Lava Beds National Monument, they’re often spotted perching on rocky outcrops and cliffs along the Schonchin Butte Trail. So, keep a keen eye out for these charismatic flycatchers as you traverse the rocky volcanic terrain, where they may be seen darting out to catch insects in mid-air.

Marble Mountains Wilderness, Shasta Valley Wildlife Area, and Lava Beds National Monument offer hidden birdwatching gems in Siskiyou County. These spots provide ample opportunities to connect with nature and appreciate avian beauty amidst stunning northern California landscapes.

Whether you’re an expert ornithologist or you’ve never birdwatcher in your life, make your next birdwatching trip happen in Siskiyou. Book your stay today and discover aviary amazement like nowhere else — and a stay packed with adventure that you won’t soon forget.

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California Watchable Wildlife

California Watchable Wildlife (CAWW) celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by acknowledging and elevating the value of wildlife viewing to benefit individuals, families, communities, and industries while fostering awareness and support for wildlife and habitats. To that end, CAWW partners with regional agencies to communicate information about their wildlife and nature tourism assets to the viewing and traveling public.


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