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160. Central Park, California City, California

An 83-acre city park in the desert with a reputation for attracting migrants in spring and fall.

When our Central Park was developed in the 1960s, it was modeled after that much more famous green space in Manhattan. Ours isn’t as big as New York’s, but it serves a similar function: It’s an oasis for migrating and resident birds.

We live within walking distance of the park, and we relish its concentration of migrants in spring and fall. Turkey Vultures circle on thermals high overhead, while warblers, flycatchers, grosbeaks, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds flit in the trees and reeds. Big pines on the north side of the main lake often hold warblers and other songbirds, and cattail beds around the lakes are great for blackbirds. Also, listen for the resident Great Horned Owls duetting in the trees around the lakes.

The park also has a reputation for attracting vagrants. In fall 2012, the tally included Evening Grosbeak and several eastern warblers: Northern Parula, American Redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Kentucky Warblers. And in October, a Pacific Loon, an ocean bird, turned up on our desert lake and stayed for a few days. We’re still excited about it. — Laura Mogg and Susan Flakes

Laura Mogg is a nurse who birds around the world on cruise ships. Susan Flakes is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who often writes nonfiction about birds.

160. Central Park, California City, California


Central Park covers 83 acres of mature pines, green knolls, a lake, ponds, and tributaries in California City, which is located in the Mojave Desert. From eastbound California City Blvd., travel to Conklin Blvd. and turn left. Go three blocks to Heather Ave. and turn right. Drive two blocks to the park and proceed into the large parking lot.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location: 35°7’53.14″N 117°56’39.68″W


Suburban park, pine trees, 30-acre lake, several man-made ponds.


Flat, with small knolls.


Spring and fall: grebes, egrets, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Wood, Ruddy, and Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Lesser Nighthawk, woodpeckers, flycatchers, swallows, nuthatches, kinglets, thrushes, Western Meadowlark, vireos, warblers, sparrows, goldfinches. Residents: herons, Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owl, Red-winged, Yellow-headed, and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, Anna’s Hummingbird, Horned Lark, Common Raven, Marsh Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Black and Say’s Phoebes. Rarities: Evening Grosbeak and eastern warblers.

When to go

Mid-April to early May and September through November.


Covered picnic tables with barbecue pits, restrooms. Park information at Strata Sports Center next to the parking lot. Restaurants nearby on California City Blvd. Golf courses surround park.


City park. Open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. No fees.


Wear layers. Mornings can be cool, afternoons hot. Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen needed. Bring and drink plenty of water; this is the desert!

For more info

California City Park and Recreation
Kern Audubon Society
Kern County Birding listserv
Birds of Kern County checklist

Sites nearby

Desert Tortoise Natural Area
Seven miles east of park on Randsburg-Mohave Rd. Le Conte’s Thrasher, Costa’s Hummingbird, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike, and the endangered desert tortoise.

Butterbredt Springs
Thirty miles from California City off Hwy. 14. Four-wheel-drive vehicle recommended. Premier spring migration location. A small spring in a low crossing of the Sierra Nevada attracts songbirds. Arrive before dawn.

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