Salton Sea


Salton Sea Salton Sea. Photo: Karen Straus

While it's in Imperial rather than San Diego County, this is a great place to find special birds in summer and winter. This is a desert area in Imperial County. Summer visitorsinclude Wood Storks, Black Terns, Yellow-footed Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Lesser Nighthawks, Burrowing Owls and migrant Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes. Birds expected in winter are thousands of Snow and Ross's Geese, Canada Geese, and a few White-fronted Geese, Sandhill Cranes, thousands of Eared Grebes, Common Goldeneyes, a variety of ducks and other waterfowl. Ever present is the Burrowing Owl. Mountain Bluebirds and Mountain Plovers are possible in winter. Use the Salton Sea National Wildlife Headquarters as your initial destination. Maps, information, and checklists are available. Refer to the ABA Guide "Birder's Guide to Southern California" for additional help. Along the way to Salton Sea, check for Burrowing Owls along ditches, White-faced Ibises, Black Terns and Laughing Gulls in wet fields in summer.


Take I-8 east to Imperial Valley. Just past the Sunbeam Rest Stop, turn left (north) on Forrester Road. Go north through Westmorland (Forrester becomes Gentry Road). Continue on Gentry to the Refuge Headquarters to the left at the intersection of Gentry and Sinclair.


Strenuous in summer. Be prepared for very hot summer weather, over 100 degrees. Bring plenty of water, hat, and sunscreen. Winter is usually pleasant. There are restrooms, water, and a few picnic tables at the Refuge headquarters. Some areas accessible for mobility impaired. Birding from cars often possible and practical.

Other Species

Yellow-footed Gull (S) Wood Stork (S) Sandhill Crane (W) Ross' Goose (W) Snow Goose (W) Phalaropes (S) Mountain Plover (W) Verdin Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Abert's Towhee Lesser Nighthawk (S) Black Tern (S)

S-Summer, Sp-Spring, W -Winter, P-Possible or rare

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Contact Info

4010 Morena Blvd
Suite #100
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 273-7800

Office Hours

Our office is staffed by volunteer receptionists. Please call (858) 273-7800 before planning your visit to ensure someone will be there to assist you.