Visit Yuba Sutter Blog

Yuba Sutter: California’s Birding Epicenter

by Emily Lee

During the fall months, visitors from all over the country “migrate” to the Yuba Sutter region to observe the many species of birds that inhabit the area. Because of its location along the Pacific Flyway, millions of migratory birds come through our two counties, making it a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Bring your binoculars and enjoy some of the best bird watching in the world! Here are a handful of popular spots (and some local hidden ones, too!) where you can witness the seasonal flocks unique to Yuba Sutter:

Click HERE to download the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Birding HotSpots Map.

Top 5 Yuba Sutter “Local’s Favorites”

  1. East Hwy 20
  2. Woodruff Lane
  3. Matthews Lane in Marysville, Ca
  4. Rice Fields on Hwy 99
  5. Back Roads Along Hwy 99

Top 5 Yuba Sutter Wildlife Areas

1. Bobelaine Sanctuary Loop

A 430 acre wildlife sanctuary, Bobelaine is a rare remnant of the riparian forests that once projected two to five miles on either side of the rivers. For birders, there are over five miles of signed and maintained trails. Bird enthusiasts will find over 190 species, including Black Crowned Night Herons, Wood Ducks and Swanson's Hawks. In addition to birds, there are a wide variety of mammals at Bobelaine, including fox, deer, river otters, beaver, and muskrat.

2. Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge spreads across 5,077 acres consisting primarily of wetlands with some grasslands and riparian habitats as well. It was established in 1945 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife, reducing damage to agricultural crops in the area. Thousands of waterfowl are present from September through March, although peak populations occur in December and January. During this two month span, more than 200,000 ducks and 75,000 geese can be seen throughout the refuge.

3. Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Gray Lodge is unique in its diversity and location along the Pacific Flyway, making it a haven for wildlife. Surrounded by miles of rich agricultural lands, the 9,000 acres of land it encompasses is managed for the wildlife that call Gray Lodge home for all or part of the year. Reflective ponds, grassy fields and wooded riparian areas provide food, water and shelter for more than 300 species of resident and migrant birds and mammals.  People of all ages enjoy visiting Gray Lodge, and wildlife viewing is available year round. Educational programs, informative exhibits, a self-guided nature trail, and seasonal guided tours delight thousands of visitors every year.

4. Sutter National Wildlife Refuge

Sutter NWR is the southernmost refuge in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and is located in the Sacramento Valley of California. The refuge consists of about 2,600 acres primarily of wetland impoundments as well as some riparian and grassland habitat.  About 80 percent of the refuge is located in the Sutter Bypass, a floodwater bypass from the Sacramento River that floods at least once a year and may cover portions of the refuge with up to twelve feet of water. Sutter Refuge typically supports wintering populations of more than 175,000 ducks and 50,000 geese.

5. Sacramento Wildlife Refuge

As its name indicates, SWR is part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  It is located about 50 miles north of the metropolitan area of Sacramento and 12 miles southwest of Yuba City in Sutter County.  Consisting of approximately 2,590 acres of primarily wetlands with some grasslands and riparian habitats, the Sutter NWR was established in 1945 with funds from the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act (today it is known as Federal Duck Stamp) and the Lea Act. It was established to provide feeding and nesting areas for migratory birds and alleviate crop depredation.  Waterfowl are present September through April and numbers peak later than most other refuges in the Sacramento NWR Complex between January and February. Sutter NWR typically supports wintering populations of more than 200,000 ducks and 100,000 geese. 

To plan your next birding adventure and book your accommodations in Yuba Sutter, please click HERE.

Whenever you visit the Yuba Sutter region, be sure to share your experiences and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and use our hashtag #VisitYubaSutter.