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Hotspots Near You

70. Lake Los Carneros Ecological Preserve, Goleta, California

Pull off Highway 101 west of Santa Barbara to watch Black-chinned Hummingbird, Virginia Rail, bitterns, sapsuckers, and breeding Western Kingbird, Black Phoebe, Spotted Towhee, and White-tailed Kite.

This delightful preserve includes historic 19th-century Stow House, beautiful exotic trees, and a freshwater lake, Lake Los Carneros. The combination of a lush garden around the house and the semi-wild 136-acre preserve around the lake makes for excellent birding.

In late summer, I watch the flowering trees around the house for migrant hummingbirds. In fall, I look for warblers, grosbeaks, and tanagers attracted to the fruits of the shrubs planted along the pathways and around the lake. The lake itself is interesting any time of year. I like to stand on the boardwalk that crosses its inlet, looking for Soras and Virginia Rails. Least Bitterns breed here, but they’re more often heard than seen.

When I walk the trail around the lake, I scan for raptors, especially the White-tailed Kite pair that has bred here over the years. The birds can be spotted south of the dam as they hover-hunt above grasslands. Keep an eye to the sky for circling Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. — Joan Easton Lentz

Joan Easton Lentz is the author of Introduction to Birds of the Southern California Coast. She also wrote about Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, Santa Barbara, California, Hotspot Near You No. 2, and San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego County, California, No. 27.


70. Lake Los Carneros Ecological Preserve, Goleta, California


Lake Los Carneros Ecological Preserve is a birding destination less than two hours west of Los Angeles. From Santa Barbara, drive west on Hwy. 101, exit at Los Carneros Rd., and proceed north. Drive about half a mile and turn right. The parking lot, shared with a fire station, a railroad museum, and historic Stow House, is straight ahead.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
34°26’38.14″N 119°51’2.32″W


Suburban garden, eucalyptus grove, grassland, freshwater marsh, coastal sage scrub.


Mostly level 1.5-mile trail around lake. Walkways around Stow House wheelchair-accessible, as is part of the path around lake. Raised boardwalk over northern section of lake.


Breeding: Cassin’s and Western Kingbird, Western Bluebird, Black Phoebe, American Kestrel, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles, California and Spotted Towhees, Hutton’s Vireo, Oak Titmouse, and Barn Owl. Late summer: Black-chinned, Allen’s, Rufous, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Great Horned Owl. Phainopeplas sometimes seen in trees at northwest corner of the lake. Fall migrants: Flycatchers, vireos, warblers, and tanagers. Winter: Northern Harrier, Merlin, Ring-necked Duck, scaup, Blue-winged, Green-winged, and Cinnamon Teal, Sora, Virginia Rail, Common Moorhen (rare), American (rare) and Least Bitterns, Red-breasted and Red-naped (rare) Sapsuckers, Western and Summer (rare) Tanagers, a variety of sparrows, mostly White- and Golden-crowned, California Thrasher and Wrentit. Year-round: White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks.

When to go

August through April produces most species, but anytime is fun.


Restrooms (sometimes not open in early morning), portable toilets. Santa Barbara Audubon Society leads occasional field trips on Fridays.


City preserve. No entrance fee, free parking. Access by private car or taxi. Avoid afternoons on weekends and holidays as it can get crowded.


Spotting scope useful but not necessary.

For more info

Stow House
Santa Barbara rare bird alert, (805) 964-8240.

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