Birds at Sunnylands

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Rancho Mirage, California

Since 2013, Sunnylands education & environmental programs staff, with the assistance of local experienced birders, has been monitoring and documenting resident and migratory bird species at the historic estate and Center & Gardens. Weekly guided bird trips record the species that remain on site to breed and nest or migrate through along their Pacific Flyway route.

Migrations of waterfowl, marsh, and shorebirds occur during spring and fall, providing the best time to see the most variety at the estate. However, smaller birds and birds of prey occur on the property year-round. These birds are attracted to Sunnylands’ freshwater lakes and streams, multiple habitats for nesting and roosting, and an abundant food supply.

In close proximity to the Colorado River, the Salton Sea, Picacho State Recreation Area, and other stopping points on the Pacific Flyway, Sunnylands is a natural site for the migrants to rest on their long-distance journey.

The variety of habitats on the historic estate and at the Center & Gardens appeals to a wide cross section of bird species. As of April 2024, more than 170 bird species have been sighted.

At the historic estate, hundreds of tree species allow nesting and roosting for birds as small as hummingbirds and as large as Red-tailed Hawks and Great-horned Owls. Low-water meadow grasses that replaced 60 acres of turf have become a favorite of ground nesters, while heron, egrets, and waterfowl crowd the lakes and streams during the peak migration.

Vermilion Flycatchers, show stoppers on bird tours, remain on the estate year-round to nest, providing an opportunity to see the brightly colored males, as well as the females and juveniles.

At the Center & Gardens, Costa’s Hummingbirds gather in numbers too high to count, performing territorial dives and battling for the best plots near blooming aloe, agave, and hesperaloe. Verdins nest in the Mesquite and Palo Verde trees, while roadrunners nest near the wildflower field. Bewick’s Wren and phoebe hunt throughout the open spaces.

Attached at the bottom of the page is our most recent bird list. This list will be updated as new species are identified on the property.

Free Guided Bird Walks are offered at the Center & Gardens on Thursday mornings, November through May, and require no reservation. See the Sunnylands Events Calendar for information and a complete schedule.

Birding tours of the estate are available in advance through online ticket sale.

Sources & links:
National Wildllife Federation
CA Department of Fish & Wildlife
Pacific Flyway Council