American Coot (courtesy Chris Mayne)

Volunteering to verify our winged residents and visitors. 
Approximately 40% of all North American bird species have been observed in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. This magnificent wetland also hosts our migrating visitors each winter as birds fly from as far as Canada and Chile along the Pacific flyway.
Our coastal sand dunes host some of California’s threatened avian species: California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover. Ridgway Rails were reintroduced in the East Basin and are thriving. Other endangered species in the reserve include: California Gnatcatcher, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, and Least Bell’s Vireo. These rare birds and many others will be observed.
All levels of experience are welcome, and teams are led by expert birders. The reserve is divided into nine sections, where every bird seen or heard is documented by the team. The count starts at 7:30 at the Rios trailhead the second Monday of each month. After counting their section, birders can meet back at the Nature Center to compile notes and data, and gather for lunch (self-provided).

Birders (Photo: J. Walker)


  • 2nd Monday Monthly (rain or shine)
  • 7:30 am - Noon
  • Meet at Rios Trailhead
View previous years species lists.
Robert Patton
birds [at] sanelijo [dot] org
Avian biologist Robert Patton began the monthly counts in 1986 as the county's Supervising Park Ranger at San Elijo Lagoon. After leaving his post, he continued as a volunteer, coordinating expansion of the survey to lagoon-wide monthly bird counts with the assistance of conservancy volunteers.


Lagoon Animal Guide
Avifauna Checklist
IUCN Redlist