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Hotspots Near You

80. Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, South El Monte, California

See Yellow-breasted Chat, California Thrasher, California Towhee, Least Bell’s Vireo, and other birds at this greenspace east of downtown Los Angeles.

Birding at the locally popular Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is frequently wonderful. I go year-round and often find birds from dawn to dusk. It is structured to preserve watershed and open space and has lakes, creeks, dammed settlement ponds, and native plant areas. In winter, ducks and geese congregate on the lakes, and shorebirds scour the edges of the holding ponds between the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River.

When I need a bird fix, I home in on the 400-acre nature center area, walk out a few hundred yards, wait for the resident California Thrasher to sing, and then go find it. I love the sound of a singing thrasher, so I’ve never tired of searching for one. Whittier Narrows appears to be the bird’s last stronghold between the San Gabriel and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Other southern California specialties here include California Towhee, Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds, and Least Bell’s Vireo. The area hosts 5-20 pairs of breeding Yellow-breasted Chats each spring. And you can find Lawrence’s Goldfinch in spring and again from late summer through December in the dry grass near the settlement ponds. — Catherine Waters

Catherine Waters is past president of Western Field Ornithologists. She also wrote about Huntington Central Park, Huntington Beach, California, Hotspot Near You No. 16. 

80. Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, South El Monte, California


Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is a 1,400-acre greenspace located about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. From downtown, take the Pomona Freeway (Hwy. 60) east and exit at Rosemead Blvd. Go south for 0.75 mile to Durfee Ave. and turn left. Drive 1.5 miles to the nature center on your right.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
34°2’1.86″N 118°2’39.68″W


Riparian and oak woodlands, sage scrub, chaparral, open fields.


Flat. Trails, ponds, lakes, and impoundments. Wheelchair-accessible on trails.


More than 290 species. Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, California Thrasher, California Towhee, Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds, Least Bell’s Vireo, Wrentit. Year-round raptors: Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, American Kestrel, and Cooper’s Hawk. Resident or wintering: Least Bittern, Greater White-fronted Goose, Wilson’s Snipe, Hooded Merganser, and Snowy and Great Egrets. Spring and fall: Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles, Lazuli Bunting, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and warblers. Exotic species: Orange Bishop, Nutmeg Mannikin.

When to go

All year.


Field trips organized by local Audubon chapters. Checklist and trail maps at nature center. Restrooms. Restaurant located at Whittier Narrows Golf Course. Fast food, gas stations, and other amenities on Peck Rd.


City multi-use facility. Free entry and parking. Bus routes.


Bring a spotting scope, water, and lunch or snacks.

For more info

Whittier Audubon Society
Los Angeles Audubon Society
El Dorado Audubon

Local guides

Thomas Ryan
Dan Cooper
Jon Feenstra

Sites nearby

Wilderness Park
10999 Little Lake Rd., Downey. Wintering waterfowl (Eurasian Wigeon in most winters) and access to San Gabriel River for migrant and vagrant birds.

Whittier Hills/Sycamore Canyon
Workman Mill Rd. near Strong Ave. Oak woodland specialties and last of the Western Screech-Owls in San Gabriel Valley.

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