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The Best Places For Birdwatching In Los Angeles
By Nilina Mason-Campbell
Depending on the neighborhood, L.A.'s urban wildlife can be just as much a part of daily life as concrete and car traffic. Coyotes, skunks, hawks and cougars pop up across the city on the regular. And while you're likely to spot birds gliding through the sky in any neighborhood from Mt. Washington to Baldwin Hills and beyond, there are areas with a higher concentration of our feathered friends. With that in mind, we've compiled the best outdoor locations for you to get your birdwatching fix. It covers everything from native species in the city center to domestic fowl on the outskirts. There's even some poultry for good measure too.
ECHO PARK LAKE
Echo Park Lake plays host to a variety of waterfowl year-round ranging from the common mallard to a large gathering of American coots (keep an eye out for their unique looking feet) and the turkey-like Muscovy ducks. The lake's island is off-limits to human visitors, but sits as a sanctuary for all the birds to call home. Renting a paddle boat will provide what are perhaps the best views of the island, but the birds line the entire lake's perimeter and are easy to spot and interact with on foot. In spring time, Echo Park Lake is fertile ground for spying an array of new arrivals, from ducklings to downy goslings. The ever territorial adult geese form a protection squad and walkways can become heavily guarded fortresses for runners, dog-walkers and passersby.
Echo Park Lake is at 751 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park. (213) 847-0929
L.A. RIVER AT ATWATER VILLAGE
At first glance, you'll likely see a murder of crows decorating a power line above the Sunnynook footbridge, but the real stars inhabit the water below. On any given afternoon, you're likely to spot a great blue heron or a group of stark white great egrets searching the shallow water for a snack. Whether you're cycling along the bike path or on foot, both species hunt and fish in several sections of the L.A. River that separates Atwater Village and Los Feliz.
Sunnynook River Park is at 2901 Los Angeles River Bike Path, Atwater Village. (818) 243-1145.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY ARBORETUM AND BOTANIC GARDEN
Sure, there is a bevy of ducks that call the arboretum's Baldwin Lake home, but the main attraction are the regal peacocks that strut around the gardens. Visitors are often introduced to the peacocks before entering; you might hear their loud squawks from the parking lot or see them decorating the trees that line the entrance. They parade around the ground with pride, their full plumage on display, popping up on pathways, amongst cactuses, in the expansive grassy lawns and on table tops at the aptly named Peacock Cafe.
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is at 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia. (626) 821-3222.
HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY
Hollywood Forever Cemetery has got a lot of splashy things on lock—ornate tombstones, sold-out screenings of iconic movies care of Cinespia, concerts with notable headliners. There's also a bevy of peacocks to boot—aside from being the final resting place for two Ramones, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed muse Holly Woodlawn, the cemetery is also home to a sizable number of the colorful peafowl. While photos of tombstones are discouraged by groundskeepers, they apparently don't tell the birds of this rule since they spend much of their days striking majestic and highly photogenic poses across the lawn.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. (323) 469-1181.
MACARTHUR PARK LAKE
MacArthur Park has a storied history, from being a hub for the hippie movement of the 60s, to a center of gang violence and political action, to an open stage for live music in recent years. And through it all the waterfowl have been around. Swans were known to glide across its waters from its founding in the 1940s, and there is still an abundance of avian wildlife that flocks to this central lake. Head down during daylight hours to the part closest to Alvarado and 7th streets for the best viewing. You'll find a gaggle of Canada geese occupying a mini island accompanied by bright white domestic geese, hoards of hungry seagulls and maybe a spare green heron or two depending on the day. Whereas there are signs posted around Echo Park Lake to discourage feedings, there is no such signage at MacArthur Park, which could perhaps be the reason why all the birds are so quick to approach seeking treats.
MacArthur Park Lake is at 2230 W 6th St, Westlake. (213) 368-0520.
HIGHLAND PARK STATION
Did you know there's a merry band of wild parrots that flutter about across the city? Similar to the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, there's a high concentration that resides in Highland Park. The flock can often be seen around the Highland Park Metro Station. You might catch their silhouettes across the blue sky or see them come to roost as a large group in the tree. Sparrows and crows take up quite a bit of real estate in the area, too. Since the parrots don't keep regular hours for when they'll appear, the key to catching a glimpse is patience, and you may need to return a few times. But they're there—flying about with glee.
Highland Park Station is at 203 N Ave 58, Highland Park.
VENICE CANALS/VENICE BEACH BOARDWALK
In addition to dreamy homes, a colorful assortment of kayaks and the occasional swan-shaped floaty, the Venice Canals also provide a home to a legion of ducks.Take a stroll along any of the pathways and bridges and you'll likely find a gaggle swimming in formation or trying to nail a landing on water. Spring is an excellent time simply for the duckling viewing. And if you're looking for hoards of seagulls, head towards the beach. Sure, there are tons of seagulls all along the coastline, but the ones in Venice are even more social than usual. If you're looking to recreate Hitchcock's Birds on Instagram (but with seagulls) step onto the boardwalk with a handful of bread and prepare to be swarmed.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is at 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice. The Venice Canals are by the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Pacific Avenue in Venice.
Connected to one of the few wild stretches of the L.A. River, Balboa Lake (in Lake Balboa) provides residence to a large collection of geese, ducks, great blue herons and great egrets. Prime viewing is anywhere along the lake. You can also head down a path just a few steps from where the river runs beside it. Better yet, take a kayak excursion and see the birds directly from the water.
Lake Balboa/Anthony C. Beilenson Park is at 6300 Balboa Blvd., Lake Balboa.
POINT FERMIN PARK
Point Fermin park definitely has a lot of charm and adventure, from its Victorian lighthouse perched atop the cliff, to the Sunken City trail leading to concrete ruins. Check the tide charts before you depart and head down at low tide to catch sandpipers and egrets strutting across the rocky shore and stalking the tide pools for an afternoon meal. Colonies of pelicans often fly across the sky above the tides during sunset, offering a beautiful sight. Also, if you can't make it out to San Pedro (but still want to catch some of the neighborhood's birds) International Bird Rescue operates a rehab center in San Pedro and offers a live stream of their Pelican aviary. They also offer volunteer opportunities for those wanting a hands-on experience.
Point Fermin Park is at 807 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro. (310) 548-7705.
If poultry is what floats your boat, you can get up close and personal with a brood of chickens that call the patio at Hauser & Wirth home. The restaurant Manuela, which is housed in the same space, prides itself on homegrown ingredients. And in this spirit it has an open-air coop and chicken run in the courtyard, where the dozen chickens roost. There are picnic benches where you can take a seat and watch their dino traits on full display. It's also worth mentioning that the hens are super friendly and will come up to the chicken wire to interact with viewers. And, if you feel like calling them by their names, Manuela provides signage for guests to learn about each individual.
Manuela is at 907 E 3rd St, Arts District. (323) 849-0480.