Bird taking flight in Suisun Marsh

Birding in Fairfield and the Suisun Marsh

At 116,000 acres, the Suisun Marsh is the largest contiguous brackish water marsh remaining on the west coast of North America and represents more than 10% of California’s remaining natural wetlands. This beautiful area of land located right in Fairfield’s backyard provides essential habitat to more than 221 bird species, and is a resting and feeding ground for thousands of waterfowl migrating on the Pacific Flyway. 

Year-round, the birding and wildlife viewing opportunities in the Suisun Marsh are impressive. There’s also an abundance of river otter, a herd of Tule Elk, 45 animal species, 16 different reptilian and amphibian species and more than 40 types of fish. But it is the winter months, when the migrating waterfowl arrive and hundreds of species of birds take to the sky, that area birding enthusiasts look forward to most. 

Take a drive on Grizzly Island Road, located off Highway 12 in Suisun City, and you’ll find both Rush Ranch (3521 Grizzly Island Rd) and the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (2548 Grizzly Island Rd). Both locations have areas where motorists can safely park their cars and walking trails to explore.

Birding in Fairfield and the Suisun Marsh
Birding in Fairfield and the Suisun Marsh
Birding in Fairfield and the Suisun Marsh
Group of birds in water at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area
(Grizzly Island photo by Karen Mickens, @kmmickens on Instagram)

Meanwhile, while not in the marsh, Fairfield’s Rockville Hills Regional Park and Lynch Canyon also offer fantastic birding opportunities on their trails. Both parks see an influx of birds in the winter months, especially from the wintering birds of prey such as hawks, raptors, and eagles. The Solano Land Trust regularly hosts Birds of Prey hikes at both Lynch Canyon and Rush Ranch in the winter months. Check out their events calendar for more information!

Hawk in flight

What types of birds can you find in the Suisun Marsh? According to Audubon

“An endemic race of Song Sparrow, the Suisun Song Sparrow, has essentially its entire global population (c. 20,000-50,000) within the Suisun Marsh (Important Bird Area), and it is believed to be the only area in the world where the Saltmarsh Common Yellowthroat, another Bay-Area endemic, is common. Suisun Bay is one of the few areas of California that supports more than 100,000 waterfowl during the winter, with ‘dabbling ducks’ (Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and American Wigeon) especially well represented.  Suisun is one of just three wintering areas for the rare ‘Tule’ race of the Greater White-fronted Goose.

With its mix of freshwater and tidal marsh, nearly every wetland bird species in the region occurs here, often in exceptional numbers. The number of California Black Rails here and in the adjacent Carquinez Straits rivals that of San Pablo Bay just to the west, which holds about half the global population of the taxon.  Short-eared Owl winters in large numbers and many still breed, the only regular nesting locale along the coast of California. The diked wetlands support breeding colonies of Tricolored Blackbird, American White Pelican have recently begun summering in large numbers and may conceivably begin to breed. The hundreds of Great Egret breeding at Suisun represent an estimated 35% of the San Francisco Bay Area population.”

Suisun Wildlife has identified all of these bird species as wintering guests and residents in the Suisun Marsh