Skip to main content

See also:

4 facts about San Diego's waterfowl

Mallard duck
Mallard duck
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

San Diego is a great place for waterfowl watching all year. But few people know that San Diego is a bit different than much of the rest of the country when it comes to waterfowl. Here are some facts about wild waterfowl in San Diego that most people don’t often realize.

Most waterfowl are winter only residents: Most of the waterfowl in San Diego is only viewable during the winter months or during migration. Only a few species, such as mallards, redheads, ruddy ducks, and gadwalls, stay all year. Brant, Canada geese, wigeons and northern shovelers, for example, are winter only residents. A handful of non-migratory Canada geese still can be seen at many parks. Some ducks, such as lesser scaup, often arrive very early and leave very late so that they are sometimes still seen in summer months.

Few waterfowl breed in San Diego: San Diego isn't the best place in the country to view ducklings, though it’s not totally devoid of it. Mallards are the only duck that consistently breeds in the county in most areas. Other species, such as Gadwalls, redheads, and ruddy ducks, sometimes breed, but not always and not in all areas. Canada geese also breed in a few areas, but not on a regular basis.

San Diego's waterfowl can be seen in salt and fresh water: Though there is a preference with many species, one can find most waterfowl species in the San Diego area in all types of water. One can sometimes see shovelers, pintails and ruddy ducks at the beach and inland. Some species, such as brant, prefer only salty water and mallards almost always prefer fresh water.

Thousands of waterfowl pass through San Diego: A large percentage of the species migrating on the Pacific Flyway will pass through San Diego County during the fall, winter and spring. San Diego is a prime place for getting birds on your life list without having to travel.

The best time to see the most waterfowl is from November-March. San Diego Audubon and other organizations often conduct bird-watching tours that will take your through prime waterfowl watching areas.