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San Diego’s Feathered Faces: Explore Local Avian Diversity at the San Diego Bird Festival

Elegant Terns, San Diego Bay NWR (Photo: Matt Sadowski/USFWS)

Did you know that San Diego County lays claim to more recorded bird species than any other in the U.S.? We’re talking more than 520 avian wonders confirmed at one time or another in our tremendously diverse swath of Southern California. No surprise, then, that San Diego’s such a hotspot for birdwatching, drawing birders from around the country and around the world.

A great celebration of our feathered residents and annual visitors—not to mention those super-rarities that show up once in a blue moon from tropical or other faraway latitudes—is about to take place in town: the San Diego Bird Festival, thrown by the San Diego Audubon Society. If you’re joining the birding bonanza, we invite you to stay with us here at the Sofia Hotel for the occasion!

The San Diego Bird Festival

The Bird Festival is underway February 26th through March 1st at the Marina Village Conference Center in Mission Bay, though as you might expect there’ll be plenty of fieldtrips anchoring the event.

Those are slated to include birdwatching safaris to such regional hotspots as the Tijuana River along the Mexico border, Balboa Park’s gardened landscape (a trip that’ll include a behind-the-scenes tour of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s avian collection), and the montane forests and shrublands of the Laguna Mountains, the highest country in San Diego County. There will also be pelagic cruises offshore to the seabird magnets of the Coronado Escarpment and the 9-Mile Bank, plus the habitat-hopping “San Diego 100 Big Day” that aims to allow participants to record at least 100 bird species in one go-round.

Meanwhile, speakers at the 2020 San Diego Bird Festival include (as usual) some big names in the birding world, including (but not limited to):

  • Julia Parish, Lowell A. and Frankie L. Wakefield Professor of Ocean Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and the executive director of the Coastal Observation & Seabird Survey Team, which musters citizen scientists to help monitor beach-cast birds along the West Coast and beyond;
  • Pete Dunne, retired director of the famous Cape May Bird Observatory and author of such notable books as Hawks in Flight;
  • Jason Ward of National Audubon, and the host of the well-known Birds of North AmericaYouTube series; and
  • Kevin McGowan, project manager for Distance Learning in Bird Biology in the Education program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and one of the masterminds behind Cornell’s popular “All About Birds” website.

While you must be registered for much of the San Diego Bird Festival’s talks and trips, there are some events open to the general public, including the free-admission “Family Day” on the festival’s closing Sunday, which’ll feature presentations on the feral parrots of San Diego, the mechanics of bird flight, birds of prey (with live raptor ambassadors), and more.

Use the Sofia Hotel as Your Luxury Home Base for the San Diego Bird Festival—and for Year-Round World-Class Birdwatching 

Accommodations on West Broadway in Downtown San Diego at the historic Sofia Hotel will put you within easy reach of the San Diego Bird Festival’s programs in Mission Bay, so we hope you’ll call us home for this year’s edition. 

Meanwhile, you can always find fabulous birding in San Diego County with a Sofia home base, no matter what time of year you visit. The 520-plus species we mentioned at the start include a fabulous array of “living dinosaurs”: Western and Mountain bluebirds, the Northern Parula, the Plumbeous Vireo, the Lazuli Hummingbird, the Calliope Hummingbird, the White-tailed Kite, the Acorn Woodpecker—plus the Long-billed Curlew, Parasitic Jaegar, Royal Tern, Rhinoceros Auklet, Sooty Shearwater, and Black-footed Albatross along and off our Pacific coast.

Productive birding spots a stone’s throw from the Sofia include the Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Come experience blue-ribbon birding in San Diego County, and enjoy plush boutique accommodations at the Sofia while you do!