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The Morro Bay Estuary + Bird Watching

If you’ve ever visited Morro Bay, you’ll know immediately what’s it’s all about – a coastal-inspired artisan town with a fisherman’s sensibility and a quiet charm. It’s half an hour’s drive away from our hotels in Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, but it feels completely different! It’s very removed from the bustle of the cities in San Luis Obispo county. Partly due to its seclusion, Morro Bay has some incredibly preserved ecological areas.

Have you heard of the Morro Estuary National Preserve? It’s located on the east side of the Morro Bay Park. An estuary is where freshwater from the rivers meets saltwater from the ocean, and Morro is generally considered to be the largest, best preserved area of its kind on the Western Coast! There are many ways you can experience the beauty of the 800 acres that are included within the estuary. Paddle or kayak on the bay, hike up Black Hill, watch the Sea Otters by Morro Rock, visit the Museum of Natural History, take a trip to the Elfin Forest, or grab binoculars and go bird watching in the Estuary Preserve.

An adorable mother sea otter with twin babies is just one of the many cute animals you may see at the Morro Bay Estuary! Photo: seaotters.com
An adorable mother sea otter with twin babies is just one of the many cute sights you may see at the Morro Bay Estuary! Photo: seaotters.com
You can also stroll through the Elfin Forest. Photo: morrobay.com
You can also stroll through the Elfin Forest. Photo: morrobay.com
The Morro Bay Estuary with Morro Rock in the distance. Photo: gardenpropaganda.com
The Morro Bay Estuary with Morro Rock in the distance. Photo: gardenpropaganda.com

One of the best parts of the Estuary is the amount of wildlife and sea-life it supports. The estuary thrives with life and the Morro Bay Estuary Program works daily to ensure that the park is protected and restored. Bird-watching is an easy activity during your adventures at the Estuary. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common and interesting birds that make their home at the Morro Estuary, birds that you could easily spot if you take the trip out to Morro! Have fun, and happy exploring!

 

1. Eared Grebe- This common bird can be seen more frequently through October-April. You may see them easily because they are highly friendly and social and nest in large, dense, and noisy colonies.

 

The Eared Grebe. Photo: www.audobon.com
The Eared Grebe. Photo: www.audobon.com

 

2. Snowy Egret- They feed on small fish which they catch by running, not swimming, and are fairly common from August to April! Look for yellow feet and a dark bill.

 

The Snowy Egret, looking for food. Photo: Allaboutbirds.com
The Snowy Egret, looking for food. Photo: Allaboutbirds.com

 

3. Green Heron- They are very secretive and solitary.They lure fish with bait like insects and berries, as they crouch and wait for fish to appear.

 

green heron, whichita
The green heron. Photo: whichita.edu

 

4. Cinnamon Teal- These birds are seasonally common from September through March. The female is a drab brown color, and the male is mostly a deep dark red color.

 

The male and female Cinnamon Teal! Photo: Birdspix
The male and female Cinnamon Teal! Photo: Birdspix

 

5. Turkey Vulture – They nest and roost in caves, trees, or in hollow stumps. You may see a large group of them perching in the trees above. Adults have a bald reddish colored head and juveniles have grayish-brown heads.

 

turkey vulture, spirit-animals
Turkey vulture. Photo: www.spirit-animals.com

 

 

6. Western Snowy Plover- It’s common to see this little bird around the Estuary, but it is actually regarded as threatened throughout the country. Breeding birds have a black bar across their forehead.

 

The cute little Western Snowy Plover. Photo: montereybayaquarium.com
The cute little Western Snowy Plover. Photo: montereybayaquarium.com

7. Killdeer – They have a very distinctive call that sounds exactly like “Killdeer,” and have very camouflaged nests. Their distinctive rings along their breast makes them easier to spot and identify.

 

Photo: naturearts.com
Photo: naturearts.com

8. Anna’s Hummingbird – One of the most common hummingbirds in the country, as well as within the estuary! Males and females of this species have different coloring. Males have a distinctive magenta coloring on their neck and a green body. Females are also green with a small red central patch.

 

Photo: instantsofflight.com
Photo: instantsofflight.com

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