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Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Natural Science Center and Birdwatching

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Natural Science Center and Birdwatching

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary and Natural Science Center is at the end of Modjeska Canyon.  We went on a foggy day which suited me well because I’m always cautious about rattlesnakes.  I imagined it to be a dry, wide open space with a lake.  It turned out to be a quaint tree covered nature path around a pond tucked up in the canyon.  Perfect for birdwatching!

Directions to Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary: From Santiago Canyon Road, turn onto Modjeska Canyon Road and drive back into the canyon.  Bear to the left at the fork with Modjeska Grade Road and wind your way up to the nature center on the left with the main outdoor portion on your right. MAP TO TUCKER WILDLIFE SANCTUARY


  • The natural science center holds all sorts of exhibits to see, hear, feel and touch.  There are animals to see, drawers to pull out, coloring projects to complete, and owl pellets to dissect.  It’s a small space, but holds lots to discover.
  • Great hummingbird spotting right outside the nature center.  I stood at the window to the gift shop and watched them come to the feeders outside.
  • You’ll find a nice selection of nature books in the gift shop.

  • Head outside, there’s a short interpretive nature trail right outside the nature center with native plants and a little loop appropriate for toddlers. The path is paved.
  • Head past the nature trail and turn left up the dirt fire road to walk a bit steeper and more wild loop up the hill toward with views of the water tower.  This is where I’d keep an eye out for snakes on hot days. (Not appropriate for strollers, but short enough that it would work for young kids.)  We saw lots of wildflowers blooming on our walk

  • Then we came back down the hill to enter the main outdoor sanctuary.  There is lots to see here!  I’ll keep it a bit of a mystery so you can discover for yourself.  Just keep an eye out for birds and make sure you check the telephone poles for woodpeckers.  There’s a special spot for doing this on the trail.  There’s also a special spot for accessing the creek at the very top of the property — look for it.

Be Aware:

  • Due to budgetary concerns, the on-site bathrooms were closed. They directed us to visit the park down the street where a portable toilet is located.
  • Parking could be tight if the sanctuary is holding a special event.   People park here to head out on the trails, as well as visit the nature center.  Probably busier on weekends.  There is parking past the center and a turnaround so you can head home facing the right direction.
  • Drive carefully through the canyon. In many places there is only room for one car and it’s a small neighborhood – so there may be kids or pets in the road.
  • Maybe it was because of the weather, but there is a quiet feel to the place.  I think it’s because there are a lot of bird watchers and wildlife to see — so everyone was quiet to entice the wildlife to show themselves.
  • It can be hot in the canyons during the summer.


  • Parking along the road and a few spots right across from the center.
  • Picnic tables right outside the nature center.
  • Bathrooms closed at the time of writing this post – use the restrooms at the park down the street.
  • Most of it is stroller-friendly, but the paths are so short you probably won’t need your stroller.
  • Official website: Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
  • 2015 Bat Night on October 17th
  • Birding Walk: Winter Migrants on November 8th (ages 12 and up with pre-registration)


Sunday 16th of February 2014

We went there today! Such a fun place, my kids (7 and 6) loved it! We spent about two hours there (including a picnic lunch). Bathrooms were open today, but they did have a sign saying they could use paper towel or toilet paper donations. Love your blog! :)

Michele Whiteaker

Tuesday 18th of February 2014

I'm so happy you had fun, Erin -- and thanks for sharing your experience.


Monday 30th of April 2012

WOW! That looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL! What a Gem just on the outskirts of suburbia! Thanks for sharing! Yet another one of your fabulous nature trips I need to add to my list of places to visit!..Instead of a park a day or Julia and Julia - a recipe a day - I think when my kids are 30 and I have the TIME, I'll try a FUN ORANGE COUNTY PARK blog trip/park/event a day! THANKS for the inspiration!

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