Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Summer Birds of Golden Gate Park

This article is dedicated to Joseph Mailliard who wrote "Birds of Golden Gate Park" in 1930. A sincere thanks to "Birding is Fun!" which has hosted countless articles that have generously passed on the essence of what makes birding fun. - David Cruz

Golden Gate Park, the flagship park of San Francisco, has become a visiting ground for bird lovers of all ages. A thousand acres, beginning from the sand dunes of Ocean Beach/Pacific Ocean and stretching three miles into San Francisco, Golden Gate Park has become an outdoor aviary where birds enjoy its beauty as they come and go. Below are pictures and observations from my favorite park in the world.

A Robins nest I had been watching taught me about natural selection when I saw this egg on the ground directly under it, luckily one chick made it:
100 years ago these birds were abundant in the park (numbers in the thousands) now they are down to around a dozen, a California Quail. (The cover of Mailliard's "The Birds of Golden Gate Park" of 1930, features a cover illustration depicting a family of CA Quail hatchlings enjoying the park):

The classic Mallard and Canada Geese nest and stay around year round: A gosling drinking water at Stowe Lake:
A Great Horned Owl Nest overlooking the Buffalo family at the Bison Paddock:
An Allen's Hummingbird during an early morning bath:
A Song Sparrow Taking Flight in Golden Gate Park:
Some of the most exciting experiences have come from watching raptor families such as Red Tail, Red-shouldered and Coppers Hawks which also nest here in the summer, here is a young Red-tailed Hawk seconds before a successful swoop on a pocket gopher:
A Young Chestnut-backed Chickadee, calling for food:
A summer rarity, a Green Heron visits the park:
The most common bird associated with Golden Gate Park are its beautiful Great Blue Herons which also live and nest here in the summer. Park visitors enjoy watching these birds hunt for pocket gophers, flipping them in the air before gulping them down:
Here are colorful Coot chicks that hatched recently, the cycle of life continues:
I would summarize my birding adventures in this park as mostly learning experiences. Surprises around every corner, make every day a new day worth adventuring. I am 25 years old and although I don't consider myself an expert, I do try my best to understand and coexist with these birds as best I can. I feel energized and fulfilled when I share a moment with a bird, knowing a bird is here with me sharing this beautiful San Francisco, California habitat.

David Cruz


  1. Very nice post and fantastic images. Looks like you have great skills observing the birds around you. I especially love the chestnut backed Chickadee all fluffed out.

  2. David, thanks for guest posting today! I really enjoyed the narrative and images. You really captured some nice moments and highlighted a very cool nationally known location, that perhaps was not known for the birds.

    1. Thanks to you Robert and to all for allowing me to share! After reading so many great articles on here I am humbled to be able to contribute.

      A special thank you to J. Moss, an experienced local SF birder who has helped me from day one.

  3. Looks like a great spot! San Francisco is such a cool city even without the birding, but it's got that in spades too!
    This post is stuffed with neat photos, thanks for sharing!

  4. A most delightful post! Golden Gate Park looks like a wonderful area for birding. Fantastic photographs of beautiful birds! I was especially taken with the young American coots, Allen's Hummingbird and the stunning California Quail.

  5. David, these are wonderful images. It makes me want to take a trip here though it is so sad to hear of the decline in the population of California Quail! What a sight that would be to see a thousand or more!