California is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with its diverse habitats and mild climate attracting an array of feathered friends.
From the colorful Acorns Woodpecker flitting about the redwoods to the iconic Hawks soaring above the coast, there’s no shortage of birds to admire in the Golden State.
But with so many species to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the 34 most common birds in California, complete with tips on where to find them and what makes each one special.
Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a curious nature lover, get ready to add some new feathered friends to your life list.
If you don’t have the time to read the whole article, check out this video for a quick understanding.
Most Common Birds in California
1. Tufted Puffin
During the summer, the Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) may be seen all along the Pacific Coast, especially off the rugged coast of Northern California.
Tufted Puffin is a medium-sized seabird that is easily recognizable due to its distinctive appearance.
It has a black head, neck, and back, with white underparts, a large, brightly colored bill, and a tuft of feathers that resembles a “punk” hairdo.
Tufted Puffin typically measures between 33 to 39 cm (13-15 in) in length. Tufted Puffin typically weighs between 550 to 650 g (1.2 to 1.4 lbs).
Tufted Puffin typically has a wingspan of 50 to 60 cm (20-24 in).
Summer is the greatest season to observe these birds since they are dressed in their breeding plumage, which includes bright, sleek plumes and multicolored bills.
The Tufted Puffin primarily breeds along the North Pacific coast, from the Aleutian Islands to California.
It is found on rocky islands, cliffs, and offshore rocks. During the non-breeding season, the Tufted Puffin can be found in the open ocean, sometimes as far as 1000 km from land.
In the winter, tufted puffins are much plainer and dwell even farther offshore.
The Tufted Puffin’s diet primarily consists of small fish, such as sand lance, capelin, and herring, as well as squid and krill.
It catches its prey by diving from the surface of the water, using its bill to scoop up fish.
Below are the characteristics of the Tufted Puffin,
|Scientific Name||Fratercula cirrhata|
|Length||14-16 inches (35-40 cm)|
|Weight||1-1.5 lbs (0.5-0.7 kg)|
|Wingspan||24-30 inches (60-75 cm)|
|Habitat||Coastal areas of the North Pacific|
|Food||Small fish and invertebrates|
2. Sooty Shearwater
With so much coastline, California is a great site to observe seabirds, with the Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) being one of the most frequent.
These pelagic birds may be observed along the coast of California all year, however, their numbers reached their maximum in late summer when millions of sooty shearwaters hover, hunt, and drift close to the coastline.
Sooty Shearwater is a medium-sized seabird that is known for its dark, sooty-brown plumage, and long, slender wings.
It has a long, slender bill and a distinctive, hunchbacked appearance when perched.
In flight, it is characterized by its strong, dynamic wing beats and long, narrow wings.
Sooty Shearwater typically measures about 41 cm (16 in) in length. Sooty Shearwater typically weighs between 450 to 550 g (1 to 1.2 lbs).
Sooty Shearwater typically has a wingspan of approximately 100 cm (39 in).
The Sooty Shearwater breeds on remote islands in the Southern Hemisphere, primarily in the sub-Antarctic regions.
The Sooty Shearwater feeds primarily on small fish and squid, which it catches by diving from the surface of the water.
Below are the characteristics of the Sooty Shearwater,
|Scientific Name||Ardenna grisea|
|Length||16-19 inches (40-48 cm)|
|Weight||1-2 lbs (0.5-1 kg)|
|Wingspan||40-46 inches (101-117 cm)|
|Habitat||Breeds in the Southern Hemisphere, migrates
throughout the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
|Food||Fish, squid, and crustaceans|
3. California Scrub-Jay
In the coastal areas and foothills of California, this long-tailed, lanky “blue jay” is a frequent year-round inhabitant in oak forests, dry shrublands, parks, and suburbs.
California Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma californica) are frequent visitors to bird feeders, and casual observers may love to watch them due to their aggressive, inquisitive, and noisy behavior.
California Scrub-Jay is a striking, blue-feathered bird with a distinctive crest on its head.
It has a blue head, back, and wings, with a white belly and a broad, dark band around its neck.
The male and female are similar in appearance, although the male is slightly larger.
California Scrub-Jay typically measures about 28 cm (11 in) in length. California Scrub-Jay typically weighs between 55 to 75 g (2 to 2.6 oz).
California Scrub-Jay typically has a wingspan of approximately 37 cm (15 in).
The California Scrub-Jay is native to the coastal regions of California and is found in a variety of habitats, including chaparral, oak woodlands, and pine forests.
The California Scrub-Jay’s diet primarily consists of acorns, peanuts, insects, small mammals, and bird eggs.
Scrub-Jays are known for burying food in the ground for later eating, which has made them a popular subject of cognitive and spatial memory study.
A study revealed that a single bird may store up to 5,000 acorns in a single fall!
Scrub-jays have been known to consume small vertebrates, as well as bird eggs and nestlings, and have been known to stalk adult birds in order to locate their nests.
Below are the characteristics of the California Scrub-Jay,
|Scientific Name||Aphelocoma californica|
|Length||11-12 inches (28-30 cm)|
|Weight||2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)|
|Wingspan||13-16 inches (33-41 cm)|
|Habitat||Oak woodlands, scrub, and suburban areas|
|Food||Acorns, nuts, seeds, insects, and small animals|
4. California Condor
The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), the state’s namesake raptor, is one of the most well-known bird conservation success stories in the world, yet the huge vultures still face extinction.
California Condor is a large, vulture-like bird with a distinctive, bald head, which is typically pink or red in color.
It has a black body and wings, with white feathers on its underwings and at the base of its neck.
The California Condor is one of the largest flying birds in North America, with a wingspan of up to 3 meters (9.8 feet).
California Condor typically measures around 1 meter (3.3 feet) in length. California Condor typically weighs between 9 to 15 kg (20 to 33 lbs).
California Condor typically has a wingspan of up to 3 meters (9.8 feet).
For the time being, they can only be spotted in isolated parts of southern and central California, and the best way to assure fantastic sightings is to hire a birding guide or visit particular birding hotspots.
The California Condor is a scavenger and primarily feeds on carrion. They feed on a variety of large animal species, including deer, elk, and cattle.
Below are the characteristics of the California Condor,
|Scientific Name||Gymnogyps californianus|
|Length||46-55 inches (117-140 cm)|
|Weight||18-31 lbs (8-14 kg)|
|Wingspan||9-10 feet (2.7-3 meters)|
|Habitat||Formerly ranged from Canada to Mexico, now found
only in central and southern California and Arizona
|Food||Carrion (dead animals)|
5. Acorns Woodpecker
With its clown-like masked look, the Acorns Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a funny bird that may be observed all year in western and northern California.
Acorn Woodpecker is a distinctive, black-and-white bird with a bold, black-and-white pattern on its head, back, and wings.
It has a white face, a black crown, and a red patch on the back of its head.
The males and females are similar in appearance.
Acorn Woodpecker typically measures around 20 cm (7.9 in) in length. Acorn Woodpecker typically weighs between 75 to 95 g (2.6 to 3.4 oz).
Acorn Woodpecker typically has a wingspan of approximately 35 cm (13.8 in).
These birds are not specialists and prefer oak woodlands, where they build family-oriented colonies and manage massive granary trees that may store hundreds of nuts at once.
The Acorn Woodpecker’s diet primarily consists of acorns, insects, and other nuts and seeds.
Below are the characteristics of the Acorns Woodpecker,
|Scientific Name||Melanerpes formicivorus|
|Length||8-9 inches (20-23 cm)|
|Weight||3-3.5 oz (85-100 g)|
|Wingspan||13-17 inches (33-43 cm)|
|Habitat||Oak woodlands and mixed-conifer forests|
|Food||Acorns, insects, and small animals|
6. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
The Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii) lacks a white patch on its back and is somewhat larger than other downies.
Nuttall’s Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker that measures approximately 7 to 8 inches in length, with a weight of around 1.5 to 2 ounces.
Its wingspan is approximately 13 to 14 inches.
The species is native to western North America and can be found in coniferous forests, oak woodlands, and riparian habitats.
They are also commonly found in suburban and urban parks and gardens.
The diet of the Nuttall’s Woodpecker consists mainly of insects and their larvae, which they extract from trees using their sharp beaks.
They also feed on nuts, seeds, and fruit.
Below are the characteristics of the Nuttall’s Woodpecker,
|Scientific Name||Picoides nuttallii|
|Length||6-7 inches (15-18 cm)|
|Weight||1.5 oz (40-50 g)|
|Wingspan||13-16 inches (33-41 cm)|
|Habitat||Oak woodlands and riparian forests|
|Food||Insects, spiders, and other small animals|
7. Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) resides in coastal California all year and is more common in southern California.
Anna’s Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird species that is easily recognizable by its iridescent green head and throat feathers.
The male also has a distinctive, rosy-red crown, which is usually raised and fluffed during courtship displays.
The species is relatively small, measuring around 3 to 3.5 inches in length and weighing around 0.1 to 0.2 ounces.
Its wingspan is approximately 4 to 5 inches.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are commonly found along the Pacific coast of North America, from southern Alaska to Baja California.
They are also found in urban and suburban areas, where they are attracted to hummingbird feeders and flowering plants.
Hummers prefer dry desert environments, but they may be found in botanical gardens and yards with nectar-rich blooms.
They also come to nectar feeders in large numbers, much to the pleasure of backyard birders.
The diet of Anna’s Hummingbirds mainly consists of nectar, which they obtain from flowers, as well as small insects and spiders, which provide them with protein.
Below are the characteristics of Anna’s Hummingbird,
|Scientific Name||Calypte anna|
|Length||3.9 inches (10 cm)|
|Weight||0.1-0.2 oz (3-6 g)|
|Wingspan||4.7 inches (12 cm)|
|Habitat||Urban and suburban areas, coastal scrublands|
|Food||Nectar, insects, and spiders|
8. California Thrasher
The California thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum) is a reasonably common bird within its habitat, but its neutral coloration and skulking behavior in dense chaparral thickets make it difficult to see.
The California Thrasher is a medium-sized bird with a long, curved bill, streaked brown upper parts, and a pale underbelly.
They are usually seen foraging on the ground, where they use their bill to dig for food.
This species measures around 10 to 11 inches in length, with a weight of around 1.5 to 2 ounces.
Its wingspan is approximately 14 to 15 inches.
These birds like to sing in open places, which allows birders to get a better glimpse of them.
California thrashers are year-round inhabitants of coastal and central California, although they are not found in the state’s northern regions.
Below are the characteristics of the California Thrasher,
|Scientific Name||Toxostoma redivivum|
|Length||11-12 inches (28-30 cm)|
|Weight||1.5-2.5 oz (42-72 g)|
|Wingspan||12-14 inches (30-36 cm)|
|Habitat||Chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and oak woodlands|
|Food||Insects, spiders, and other small animals|
9. California Quail
A trip to California would be incomplete without viewing the official state bird, the California quail (Callipepla californica).
The California Quail is a small, plump bird with a short, curved beak and a distinctive black plume on its head.
Its plumage is mainly grayish-brown with a scaled appearance, and it has a prominent white stripe on its forehead.
The male has a black throat and a white stripe above it, while the female has a plain grayish-brown throat.
The California Quail typically measures around 9-10 inches in length. The average weight of a California Quail is around 5-7 ounces.
The wingspan of a California Quail is typically around 14-16 inches.
Although they love brushy woods and scrubland settings, these plump, chicken-like birds may also be seen in suburbs and large parks.
They can be seen all year throughout much of California, but not in the southern section of the state.
The California Quail feeds mainly on seeds and fruits but also eats insects and other small invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the California Quail,
|Scientific Name||Callipepla californica|
|Length||9-10 inches (23-25 cm)|
|Weight||5-7 oz (140-200 g)|
|Wingspan||12-14 inches (30-36 cm)|
|Habitat||Scrublands, chaparral, and open woodlands|
|Food||Seeds, insects, and other small animals|
10. White-Headed Woodpecker
The white-headed woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) is so named because both male and female birds of this species have whiteheads.
The White-Headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with striking black and white plumage.
It has a white head and neck, with a black mask around its eyes and a black throat.
Its back and wings are black with white spots, and its underparts are white.
The male has a small red patch on the back of his head.
The White-Headed Woodpecker typically measures around 9-10 inches in length. The average weight of a White-Headed Woodpecker is around 2-3 ounces.
The wingspan of a White-Headed Woodpecker is typically around 15-17 inches.
Many birders in northern and central California can observe these woodpeckers all year in mountain pine woodlands.
Within their range, they are quite abundant, although they rarely venture far from their preferred woodland environments.
The White-Headed Woodpecker feeds mainly on insects, particularly wood-boring beetles and their larvae. It also eats spiders, ants, and other small invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the White-Headed Woodpecker,
|Scientific Name||Dryobates albolarvatus|
|Length||8-10 inches (20-25 cm)|
|Weight||2.5-3 oz (70-85 g)|
|Wingspan||16-18 inches (41-46 cm)|
|Habitat||Coniferous forests, especially those with dead trees|
|Food||Insects, especially wood-boring beetles, and tree sap|
11. Mountains Quail
The Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) is a unique and distinctive bird, with a plump body and a short tail.
It has a brownish-gray head with a prominent crest and a brown face with a white patch above the eye.
Its breast is blue-gray with white stripes, and its flanks are chestnut-colored with white spots.
It has a distinctive black-and-white pattern on its belly and a dark brown back.
The Mountain Quail typically measures around 9-10 inches in length. The average weight of a Mountain Quail is around 6-8 ounces.
The wingspan of a Mountain Quail is typically around 14-16 inches.
The Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, and the San Bernardino ranges are all prominent mountain ranges in California, and any of them might be an excellent site to view the elusive mountain quail.
These birds prefer deep thickets and brushy slopes, although their vivid coloring and distinctive body patterns may be observed all year in the state’s northern and central highlands.
The Mountain Quail feeds mainly on seeds, fruits, and insects.
It forages on the ground, using its strong legs to scratch at the soil to uncover food.
Below are the characteristics of the Mountains Quail,
|Scientific Name||Oreortyx pictus|
|Length||9-10 inches (23-25 cm)|
|Weight||6.5-8.5 oz (180-240 g)|
|Wingspan||14-16 inches (36-41 cm)|
|Habitat||Chaparral, coniferous forests, and woodland areas|
|Food||Seeds, fruits, and insects|
The Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata), another rather simple bird, is big but difficult to observe because it hides in low thickets.
The Wrentit is a small, secretive bird with a distinctive appearance.
It has a plain brownish-gray back and wings, and a reddish-brown crown and nape.
It has a white throat and a dark stripe through its eye.
It has a short, stubby tail and a curved bill.
The Wrentit’s plumage is somewhat drab and uniform, but its distinctive call is a unique and memorable feature.
The Wrentit typically measures around 4-5 inches in length. The average weight of a Wrentit is around 0.4-0.6 ounces.
The wingspan of a Wrentit is typically around 6-7 inches.
However, these birds have a powerful call and are frequently heard before being seen.
Wrentits live in western California all year, although they aren’t found in most of the hilly areas.
The Wrentit feeds mainly on insects, particularly spiders, caterpillars, and beetles.
It may also eat seeds and fruit, particularly in the winter months.
Below are the characteristics of the Wrentit,
|Scientific Name||Chamaea fasciata|
|Length||4.5-5.5 inches (11-14 cm)|
|Weight||0.4-0.6 oz (10-17 g)|
|Wingspan||6-7 inches (15-18 cm)|
|Habitat||Chaparral and coastal scrub|
|Food||Insects, spiders, and other small animals|
13. Costa’s Hummingbird
The costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae) is a desert hummingbird that may be seen all year round in the driest areas of southern California.
The Costa’s Hummingbird is a small hummingbird with a distinctive appearance.
The male has a shiny green back and crown, with a bright purple gorget (throat) that extends down to its chest.
The female is less colorful, with a grayish-green back and white breasts.
Both sexes have straight, slender bills and long, deeply forked tails.
The Costa’s Hummingbird typically measures around 3-4 inches in length. The average weight of a Costa’s Hummingbird is around 0.1-0.2 ounces.
The wingspan of a Costa’s Hummingbird is typically around 4-5 inches.
These birds migrate somewhat north during the summer breeding season, notably in western California, and males may be identified by their vivid purple gorge with deep, pointed corners.
The Costa Hummingbird feeds mainly on nectar from flowers and also eats small insects and spiders for protein.
It hovers near flowers, using its long bill to probe the flowers for nectar.
It may also catch insects in mid-air using its bill or by plucking them from vegetation.
The Costa Hummingbird is an important pollinator of many desert plants.
Below are the characteristics of the Costa’s Hummingbird,
|Scientific Name||Calypte costae|
|Length||3-4 inches (8-10 cm)|
|Weight||0.1-0.2 oz (3-5 g)|
|Wingspan||4-5 inches (10-13 cm)|
|Habitat||Desert scrub and chaparral|
|Food||Nectar, insects, and spiders|
14. Lawrence’s Goldfinch
In the arid, scrubby environments and weedy fields where it thrives, Lawrence’s goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei) may be a brilliant spot of golden color.
Lawrence’s Goldfinch is a small, brightly-colored songbird with a distinctive appearance.
The male has a bright yellow head and breast, with a black face and wings.
It has white patches on its wings and a black tail with white edges.
The female is less colorful, with a grayish-yellow head and breast and less prominent black markings.
Both sexes have a short, conical bill and a forked tail.
The Lawrence’s Goldfinch typically measures around 4-5 inches in length. The average weight of a Lawrence’s Goldfinch is around 0.4-0.5 ounces.
The wingspan of a Lawrence’s Goldfinch is typically around 7-8 inches.
These birds live in tiny groups and have a year-round range that spans over central California.
Lawrence’s goldfinches are sometimes observed with lesser goldfinches and American goldfinches, and their songs contain imitation, making them even more perplexing.
Lawrence’s Goldfinch feeds mainly on seeds from a variety of plants, including thistle, sunflower, and grasses.
It may also eat insects and spiders, particularly during the breeding season when protein is needed for growth and development.
Below are the characteristics of the Lawrence’s Goldfinch,
|Scientific Name||Spinus lawrencei|
|Length||4-5 inches (10-13 cm)|
|Weight||0.3-0.4 oz (8-12 g)|
|Wingspan||7-8 inches (18-20 cm)|
|Habitat||Oak savannahs and foothill woodlands|
|Food||Seeds, especially thistle and sunflower seeds|
Check out this article on Types of Finches in California.
15. Common Ground Dove
The common ground dove (Columbina passerina) is a kind of dove that might be challenging to identify.
The Common Ground Dove is a small bird, measuring about 6-7 inches in length.
It has a brownish-gray body with a scaled appearance on the back and wings, a pale face, and a reddish-brown patch on the wings.
The beak is short and dark, and the legs are pinkish.
To be certain about this bird, check for a scaly appearance on the breast, a crimson beak, and speckled wings.
The Common Ground Dove typically measures around 6-7 inches in length. The Common Ground Dove usually weighs around 1-2 ounces.
The wingspan of a Common Ground Dove is around 10-12 inches.
The common ground dove may be seen all year in southern California.
The Common Ground-Dove primarily feeds on seeds and fruits, but will also eat insects and other small invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the Common Ground Dove,
|Scientific Name||Columbina passerina|
|Length||6-9 inches (15-23 cm)|
|Weight||1-2 oz (28-57 g)|
|Wingspan||12-14 inches (30-36 cm)|
|Habitat||Open areas, fields, and scrublands|
|Food||Seeds, fruit, and insects|
16. Feral Parrots
Even if they don’t officially count on birders’ favorite bird lists, a variety of feral parrot species are often valued garden birds.
Classic birds to observe in major metropolitan parks in California, different kinds of wild parrots are often adored backyard birds.
Some of the species recorded in California include the red-crowned and yellow-headed parrot, red-masked parakeet, and mitered parakeet along with the blue-crowned parakeet.
17. Oak Titmouse
These little grey birds may appear unremarkable save for a slight crest on their heads, yet Oak Titmice (Baeolophus inornatus) have a lot of heart.
They are almost exclusively limited to California’s drier slopes and are strongly associated with oak forests, where you can hear their fast, chattering cries as they fly furiously over the canopy in couples or small family groups in search of insects to eat.
The Oak Titmouse is a small, gray-brown bird with a distinctive crest of feathers on its head.
It has a short, thick bill and a relatively long tail. The bird’s face is gray, and it has a white patch above the bill.
The bird’s wings and back are gray-brown, while its belly is paler in color.
Oak Titmice are typically around 4.5-5.5 inches (11-14 cm) long. Oak Titmice typically weigh between 0.3-0.4 ounces (9-12 g).
The wingspan of an Oak Titmouse is typically around 7.5 inches (19 cm).
Oak Titmice pair for life and defends their territory all year.
They are almost identical in appearance to the Great Basin Juniper Titmouse, with which they have once classified the same species, the Plain Titmouse.
Oak Titmice generally nest and roost in natural cavities chosen by the female, although they sometimes use nest boxes on a regular basis.
Oak Titmice primarily eat insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates.
They also eat seeds and berries, especially in the winter when insects are less abundant.
Below are the characteristics of the Oak Titmouse,
|Scientific Name||Baeolophus inornatus|
|Length||4.5-5 inches (11-13 cm)|
|Weight||0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)|
|Wingspan||7-8 inches (18-20 cm)|
|Habitat||Oak woodlands, riparian forests, and scrublands|
|Food||Insects, spiders, and seeds|
18. Band-Tailed Pigeon
Pigeons are not uncommon in California, however, the band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) is distinct from the common city pigeon or mourning dove.
These pigeons live on the foothills of California’s mountain ranges, particularly along the coast and in the state’s interior.
The Band-tailed Pigeon is a large, plump pigeon with a long, squared-off tail and a small head.
It has a grayish-brown body with iridescent green and purple feathers on its neck and wings.
The bird’s bill is yellow with a dark tip, and its eyes are dark red.
The bird’s distinctive band of feathers at the base of its tail is white.
Band-tailed Pigeons are typically around 14-16 inches (35-40 cm) long. Band-tailed Pigeons typically weigh between 9-12 ounces (250-340 g).
The wingspan of a Band-tailed Pigeon is typically around 27-30 inches (68-76 cm).
Their yellow bills and huge shimmering patch on the back of their necks distinguish them.
Band-tailed Pigeons primarily eat fruits and seeds, especially those of conifer trees.
They may also eat insects and other small invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the Band-Tailed Pigeon,
|Scientific Name||Patagioenas fasciata|
|Length||13-16 inches (33-41 cm)|
|Weight||8-12 oz (227-340 g)|
|Wingspan||25-29 inches (64-74 cm)|
|Habitat||Coniferous and mixed forests|
|Food||Seeds, fruits, and berries of trees|
19. Spotted Dove
The spotted dove is an unusual bird to observe in southern California, which normally ranges from San Diego to Bakersfield, yet that is the region over which these Asian birds have spread since their arrival to the state.
The Spotted Dove is a small, plump dove with a relatively short tail.
It has a brownish-gray body with darker spots on its wings and back, and a distinctive black-and-white collar on its neck.
The bird’s eyes are dark, and it has a small, dark bill.
Spotted Doves are typically around 11-12 inches (28-30 cm) long. Spotted Doves typically weigh between 3-5 ounces (85-140 g).
The wingspan of a Spotted Dove is typically around 16-18 inches (40-45 cm).
They may be seen in parks and gardens in suburban communities and can be identified by their spotty patch on the side of the neck.
Spotted Doves primarily eat seeds and grains, but they may also eat insects and other small invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the Spotted Dove,
|Scientific Name||Spilopelia chinensis|
|Length||10-12 inches (25-30 cm)|
|Weight||4-5 oz (113-142 g)|
|Wingspan||18-20 inches (46-51 cm)|
|Habitat||Urban and suburban areas, gardens, parks|
|Food||Seeds, grains, and small insects and snails|
20. Allen’s Hummingbird
Summer visitors to coastal California have also included Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin), a bold and aggressive hummingbird that may be found from Santa Barbara to the northern border.
Allen’s Hummingbird is a small, brightly colored hummingbird with a relatively short bill.
The male has a greenish back and head, a red gorget (throat patch), and a coppery patch on its back.
The female is duller in color and lacks the male’s colorful markings.
Both sexes have white tips on their tails.
The orange plumage and greenback of these birds make them simple to identify, although other rufous hummingbirds have greenbacks as well, and where these species’ ranges overlap, considerable care must be taken to ensure accurate identification.
Allen’s Hummingbirds are typically around 3.5 inches (9 cm) long. Allen’s Hummingbirds typically weigh between 0.1-0.2 ounces (2.5-5 g).
The wingspan of an Allen’s Hummingbird is typically around 4.3 inches (11 cm).
Allen’s Hummingbirds primarily feed on nectar from flowers, but they also eat small insects and spiders.
Below are the characteristics of the Allen’s Hummingbird,
|Scientific Name||Selasphorus sasin|
|Length||3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm)|
|Wingspan||4-5 inches (10-13 cm)|
|Habitat||Coastal sage scrub, chaparral, gardens|
|Food||Nectar, insects, spiders, sap|
21. Black-Chinned Sparrow
The black-chinned sparrow (Spizella atrogularis) is small and silent, making it easy to overlook.
The Black-Chinned Sparrow is a small, nondescript sparrow with a grayish-brown back and wings, a buff-colored breast, and a black throat patch.
The bird’s eyes are dark, and it has a small, conical bill.
Its light beak and black face, on the other hand, give it a unique look, and its stripped-back instantly identifies it as a sparrow.
Black-Chinned Sparrows are typically around 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) long. Black-Chinned Sparrows typically weigh between 0.4-0.6 ounces (12-17 g).
The wingspan of a Black-Chinned Sparrow is typically around 7-8 inches (18-20 cm).
These species have been recorded throughout central and southern California during the summer mating season.
Black-Chinned Sparrows primarily eat seeds and insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, and spiders.
Below are the characteristics of the Black-Chinned Sparrow,
|Scientific Name||Spizella passerina|
|Length||4.3 – 5.1 inches (11 – 13 cm)|
|Weight||0.3 – 0.5 oz (9 – 14 g)|
|Wingspan||6.7 – 7.5 inches (17 – 19 cm)|
|Habitat||Arid or semi-arid scrublands and deserts|
|Food||Seeds, insects, berries|
22. Northern Pygmy-Owl
Owls can be mysterious, but the northern pygmy-owl (Glaucidium gnoma) is one of the most visible owls in California.
The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a small, stocky owl with a rounded head and no ear tufts.
The bird’s coloration is grayish-brown with white spots, and it has a distinctive white “eyebrow” over each eye.
The eyes are yellow, and the beak is yellowish-green.
Northern Pygmy-Owls are typically around 6-7 inches (15-18 cm) long. Northern Pygmy-Owls typically weigh between 2-3 ounces (57-85 g).
The wingspan of a Northern Pygmy-Owl is typically around 14 inches (36 cm).
These little but ferocious owls may be found all year in mountain forests across California, primarily along the coast, in the north, and in western California, and they are often aggressive hunters even during daylight hours.
Northern Pygmy-Owls primarily eat small mammals, such as mice and voles, as well as birds, insects, and other small prey.
Below are the characteristics of the Northern Pygmy-Owl,
|Scientific Name||Glaucidium gnoma|
|Length||6.7 – 7.5 inches (17 – 19 cm)|
|Weight||2.3 – 2.8 oz (65 – 80 g)|
|Wingspan||14 – 16 inches (36 – 41 cm)|
|Habitat||Coniferous forests, woodlands, and chaparral|
|Food||Small mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles|
23. Yellow-Billed Magpie
The yellow-billed magpie (Pica nuttalli), a California specialty, is found exclusively in central California and nowhere else on the planet.
The Yellow-Billed Magpie is a large, striking bird with black and white plumage and a yellow bill.
The bird’s eyes are dark, and it has long, rounded wings and a long, graduated tail.
Yellow-Billed Magpies are typically around 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) long. Yellow-Billed Magpies typically weigh between 4-8 ounces (113-227 g).
The wingspan of a Yellow-Billed Magpie is typically around 24-26 inches (61-66 cm).
They are most commonly seen in rural settings with meadows, farms, and scattered oak groves.
Yellow-Billed Magpies primarily eat insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, but they will also eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
They are also known to scavenge carrion and human food.
Below are the characteristics of the Yellow-Billed Magpie,
|Scientific Name||Pica nuttalli|
|Habitat||Oak savannas, oak woodlands, and riparian areas in California|
|Food||Insects, small mammals, reptiles, and bird eggs|
24. Red-Shouldered Hawk
This medium-sized forest hawk is possibly California’s noisiest raptor since it is frequently heard before it is seen.
Their piercing, high-pitched keeah cries, which they employ to defend their territory or seek a mate, signal the arrival of spring throughout their coastal habitat.
Unlike populations in the eastern United States, which are nearly entirely forest dwellers, Red-shouldered Hawks in California appear to be more adaptive, frequently occupying suburban homes and parks.
Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) are devoted to their territories, mating in the same spot year after year.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with reddish-brown shoulders and a barred tail.
The bird’s head is typically pale with a dark eye stripe, and its breast and belly are streaked with brown and white.
The wings are broad and rounded, and the beak is sharp and curved.
Red-Shouldered Hawks are typically around 17-24 inches (43-61 cm) long. Red-Shouldered Hawks typically weigh between 1-2 pounds (0.5-0.9 kg).
The wingspan of a Red-Shouldered Hawk is typically around 3-4 feet (91-122 cm).
One reported couple in Southern California bred in the same spot for 16 years.
Their huge platform nests high in the trees, which are built by both sexes, are frequently reused for several seasons.
Red-shouldered Hawks, like many other raptors, live a life of at least 25 years and 10 months.
The oldest known hawk of this species was a female caught and released during banding operations in California.
Red-Shouldered Hawks primarily eat small mammals, such as mice and voles, as well as birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
They are also known to eat insects and other invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the Red-Shouldered Hawk,
|Scientific Name||Buteo lineatus|
|Habitat||Forests, wooded areas, and riparian habitats|
|Food||Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds|
25. White-tailed Hawk
The White-tailed Hawk (Geranoaetus albicaudatus) is a large, pale-colored hawk with a distinctive white tail and dark flight feathers.
The bird’s head is light gray, and it has a dark, hooked beak and dark eyes.
The wings are broad and pointed, and the legs are long and yellow.
White-tailed Hawks are typically around 19-24 inches (48-61 cm) long. White-tailed Hawks typically weigh between 1.5-2.5 pounds (0.7-1.1 kg).
The wingspan of a White-tailed Hawk is typically around 4-5 feet (122-152 cm).
With its hooded red eyes and beautiful light plumage, the white-tailed kite has a piercing glare.
Its ability to hover momentarily further distinguishes this bird of prey.
Year-round, these raptors may be seen throughout coastal and central California, usually in open land with a few high perches.
Because white-tailed kites tend to perch and search for food, they are simple to see.
White-tailed Hawks primarily eat small mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and ground squirrels, as well as birds and reptiles.
They are also known to scavenge carrion and eat insects and other invertebrates.
Below are the characteristics of the White-tailed Hawk,
|Scientific Name||Geranoaetus albicaudatus|
|Length||48-61 cm (19-24 in)|
|Weight||610-1200 g (21.5-42.3 oz)|
|Wingspan||122-147 cm (48-58 in)|
|Habitat||Open woodland, savanna, scrubland|
|Food||Mainly reptiles, also birds and small mammals|
The whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is the most widely distributed curlew species, and it is a frequent winter visitor to California’s coast.
The Whimbrel is a large, long-legged wading bird with a long, curved bill.
It has a brownish-gray back and wings, a buff-colored head and neck, and a distinctive striped pattern on its head and neck.
In flight, the bird shows a white stripe on the wings and a white rump patch.
The bill is long and curved, with a pinkish base and black tip.
Whimbrels are typically around 16-20 inches (41-51 cm) long. Whimbrels typically weigh between 12-24 ounces (340-680 g).
The wingspan of a Whimbrel is typically around 3-4 feet (91-122 cm).
They may be found in a wide range of environments, including beaches, mudflats, and flooded fields.
The long, curved distinctive bill of these birds is a little shorter than the bill of the long-billed curlew, which is also found in the same areas.
Whimbrels primarily eat small invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, as well as small fish and occasionally small mammals.
They use their long bills to probe the mud and sand for food.
Below are the characteristics of the Whimbrel,
|Scientific Name||Numenius phaeopus|
|Length||16-20 inches (40-50 cm)|
|Weight||14-19 ounces (400-550 g)|
|Wingspan||32-40 inches (80-100 cm)|
|Habitat||Coastal mudflats, beaches, salt marshes, and tundra|
|Food||Insects, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and small fish|
27. Mountain Plover
The mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) is a species of shorebird that is rarely seen at the water’s edge. It also isn’t found in mountains.
Instead, these huge plovers require dry, short, grassy plains, which are ideal for mountain plovers in central California and the state’s extreme southern area.
These birds, on the other hand, can be evasive and difficult to see.
The Mountain Plover is a medium-sized shorebird with a light brown back and wings, a white belly, and a distinctive black patch on the breast.
It has a short, stubby bill and yellow legs.
In flight, the bird shows a white stripe on the wings and a white rump patch.
Mountain Plovers are typically around 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) long. Mountain Plovers typically weigh between 2-3 ounces (57-85 g).
The wingspan of a Mountain Plover is typically around 18-20 inches (46-51 cm).
Mountain Plovers primarily eat insects and other small invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, and spiders.
Below are the characteristics of the Mountain Plover,
|Scientific Name||Charadrius montanus|
|Habitat||Shortgrass prairies and arid grasslands of North America|
|Food||Insects, spiders, small invertebrates, and seeds, as well as forage grasses and forbs|
28. Blue-Footed Booby
The blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) is not commonly observed in California, but it is a frequent, if uncommon, wanderer to the area, especially in the summer and across southern California.
The Blue-Footed Booby is a large seabird with distinctive bright blue feet.
It has a brownish-gray body and a white head, neck, and belly.
The male has slightly larger feet and is usually larger overall than the female.
It has a long, pointed bill and a wingspan of about 5.5 feet (1.7 meters).
The bird’s distinct form and distinctive brilliant blue legs and feet make it a popular target species whenever it appears, attracting birders from all across the state and even farther away to add it to their life lists.
Blue-Footed Boobies are typically around 32-34 inches (81-86 cm) long. Blue-Footed Boobies typically weigh between 2.2-3.3 pounds (1-1.5 kg).
The wingspan of a Blue-Footed Booby is typically around 5.5 feet (1.7 meters).
Blue-Footed Boobies primarily eat fish, which they catch by diving from the air into the water.
Below are the characteristics of the Blue-Footed Booby,
|Scientific Name||Sula nebouxii|
|Length||76-91 cm (30-36 in)|
|Weight||1.5-2.7 kg (3.3-6.0 lb)|
|Wingspan||140-150 cm (55-59 in)|
|Habitat||Tropical and subtropical areas|
|Food||Fish (mostly small sardines)|
29. Snowy Plover
The snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus), a year-round inhabitant along the California coast, likes dry, sandy beaches.
The Snowy Plover is a small, stocky wading bird with sandy brown upper parts and a white belly.
It has a rounded head with a short, thick bill and black eyes.
In breeding plumage, it may have a faint black band around the neck and a dark patch on the forehead.
Its legs are pale pinkish-gray and it has a wingspan of about 16 inches (41 cm).
Snowy Plovers are typically around 6-7 inches (15-18 cm) long. Snowy Plovers typically weigh between 1-2 ounces (30-60 grams).
The wingspan of a Snowy Plover is typically around 16 inches (41 cm).
Several of these birds may be found on alkali flats in central California during the summer mating season, and they can also be seen further east.
Look for the bird’s shattered necklace patterns and grey leg colors for proper identification.
Snowy Plovers primarily eat small invertebrates, such as crustaceans, mollusks, and insects, which they find by probing in the sand or mud with their bills.
Below are the characteristics of the Snowy Plover,
|Scientific Name||Charadrius nivosus|
|Length||14-17 cm (5.5-6.7 in)|
|Weight||22-42 g (0.78-1.48 oz)|
|Wingspan||35-41 cm (14-16 in)|
|Habitat||Coastal beaches and salt flats|
|Food||Small invertebrates and crustaceans|
30. Black Oystercatcher
The black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) stands out not just because of its all-black plumage and vivid orange-red beak, but also because of its tireless foraging on rocky beaches.
These birds are usually encountered in couples or small groups along the California coast, while they are less common in the south.
The Black Oystercatcher is a large, entirely black bird with a long, thick, bright orange bill, pink legs, and a red eye.
Black Oystercatchers are typically around 15-18 inches (38-46 cm) long. Black Oystercatchers typically weigh between 19-28 ounces (550-800 grams).
The wingspan of a Black Oystercatcher is typically around 30-32 inches (76-81 cm).
Black Oystercatchers are found along rocky shorelines and intertidal zones from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
They require rocky shores for nesting and feeding.
Black Oystercatchers primarily eat shellfish, such as mussels, clams, and oysters, which they pry open with their bills. They may also eat other invertebrates, such as crabs and sea stars.
Below are the characteristics of the Black Oystercatcher,
|Scientific Name||Haematopus bachmani|
|Length||40-46 cm (16-18 in)|
|Weight||680-900 g (1.5-2.0 lb)|
|Wingspan||76-89 cm (30-35 in)|
|Habitat||Rocky shores and intertidal areas|
|Food||Shellfish (oysters, mussels, etc.)|
31. Cedar Waxwing
The delicate, lisping cries of this gregarious, fruit-loving bird may be heard when they descend in big flocks to feast on berry-laden bushes and shrubs.
Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are one of the more migratory songbirds, moving about in pursuit of regionally rich fruit crops.
The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized bird with a crested head, a black mask around its eyes, and a sleek, brownish-gray body with a yellow belly and a bright red, wax-like spot on the tips of its secondary wing feathers.
Cedar Waxwings are typically around 6.5-8 inches (16.5-20 cm) long. Cedar Waxwings typically weigh between 1-1.5 ounces (28-42 grams).
The wingspan of a Cedar Waxwing is typically around 11-12 inches (28-30 cm).
Depending on access to food, their mating and nesting habitats may change from season to season.
They are most commonly observed in California throughout the winter and will be lured to backyards with fruit-producing native plants including dogwood, and coffee berries.
Cedar Waxwings are one of the few birds that can live on fruit alone for months, yet they’ve been known to get tipsy after eating too many overripe fruits that have started rotting.
Waxwings will also consume insects caught acrobatically on the wing throughout the summer.
The crimson, wax-like droplets on the inner wing feathers are one of the waxwing’s distinguishing physical features.
Although the specific function of these waxy tips is unknown, experts believe they may aid in the attraction of mates.
Cedar Waxwings primarily eat fruit, such as berries, cherries, and grapes, but they may also eat insects, especially during the breeding season.
Below are the characteristics of the Cedar Waxwing,
|Scientific Name||Bombycilla cedrorum|
|Length||14-17 cm (5.5-6.7 in)|
|Weight||30-40 g (1.1-1.4 oz)|
|Wingspan||19-23 cm (7.5-9.1 in)|
|Habitat||Forest edges, orchards, and parks|
|Food||Berries, insects, and sap from trees|
32. Cooper’s Hawk
The Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is the smallest and most common of California’s three bird-hunting Accipiter hawks, breeding in forests throughout the state as well as forested suburbs increased their population with greater numbers in the past few decades.
Cooper’s Hawks range from 14 to 20 inches (36-51 cm) long. Cooper’s Hawks typically weigh between 8-14 ounces (227-397 grams).
The wingspan of a Cooper’s Hawk ranges from 24 to 36 inches (61-91 cm).
Cooper’s Hawks are relatively covert, despite their wide range, and are most often observed quickly stalking above the border of woodland or field.
Cooper’s Hawks are effective at following food through dense tree canopies at high speeds, thanks to their long tail and powerful, rounded wings.
They will also use backyard feeders for hunting on occasion––observant viewers may hear alarm cries spreading among backyard birds prior to Cooper’s approach.
Cooper’s Hawks primarily eat medium-sized birds like doves, starlings, and robins, although they will occasionally take smaller animals.
Females are roughly 30% bigger than males, making for one of the most dramatic sex-based size disparities of any hawk, and females consume greater prey than males as a result of this disparity.
Cooper’s Hawks are famously difficult to tell apart from its smaller relative, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is mostly a winter visitor to California.
Below are the characteristics of the Cooper’s Hawk,
|Scientific Name||Accipiter cooperii|
|Length||38-46 cm (15-18 in)|
|Weight||300-550 g (10.6-19.4 oz)|
|Wingspan||74-94 cm (29-37 in)|
|Habitat||Woodlands, forests, and suburban areas|
|Food||Small mammals, birds, and reptiles|
33. Yellow-rumped Warbler
These birds, popularly known as “butter-butts” because of a prominent yellow patch on their rumps, are among the toughest and most ubiquitous warblers in North America.
Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) are a popular wintering bird in much of California, flocking together in small groups to visit trees and bushes.
Yellow-rumped Warblers range from 4.7 to 5.9 inches (12-15 cm) long. Yellow-rumped Warblers typically weigh between 0.4-0.5 ounces (11-14 grams).
The wingspan of a Yellow-rumped Warbler ranges from 7.5 to 9 inches (19-23 cm).
Unlike other insect-eating warblers. Yellow-rumped Warblers consume berries as well, since the waxy layer of berries may be digested by warblers, which is a dietary choice that allows the species to spend the winter further north than other warblers.
By April, the majority of the birds will have left for their nesting habitats, which include coniferous forests in the California mountain ranges.
The western North American yellow-throated “Audubon’s” warbler and the white-throated eastern “Myrtle” warbler are two subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warblers that were considered distinct species of these birds in the past.
Below are the characteristics of the Yellow-rumped Warbler,
|Scientific Name||Setophaga coronata|
|Length||11-14 cm (4.3-5.5 in)|
|Weight||9-18 g (0.3-0.6 oz)|
|Wingspan||20-25 cm (7.9-9.8 in)|
|Habitat||Coniferous and mixed forests, parks|
|Food||Insects, berries, and fruit|
34. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) are frequent and charming non-migratory inhabitants of the wet coniferous woods of coastal California.
The species has expanded its geographic range over the last five decades by colonizing forest habitats in the central Sierra Nevada and suburban areas in the eastern San Francisco Bay.
They have usually been observed feeding in flocks alongside other chickadee species in the woodlands, but they may also utilize domestic bird feeders that provide seeds or suet.
Chestnut-backed Chickadees are about 4.5 inches (11 cm) in length.
Chestnut-backed Chickadees typically weigh between 0.3-0.4 ounces (8-12 grams).
The wingspan of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee is about 6-7 inches (15-18 cm).
Chestnut-backed Chickadees generally build their nests in tree cavities, including hair and fur in the process.
Half of a nest hole’s material consists of fur and hair, which the adults use to wrap their eggs as a protective covering when they leave the nest.
Below are the characteristics of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee,
|Scientific Name||Poecile rufescens|
|Length||11-13 cm (4.3-5.1 in)|
|Weight||8-12 g (0.3-0.4 oz)|
|Wingspan||16-18 cm (6.3-7.1 in)|
|Food||Insects, seeds, and berries|
In conclusion, California is home to a diverse range of bird species, each with its unique characteristics and habitats.
Again, These are the Most Common Birds in California:
- Tufted Puffin
- Sooty Shearwater
- California Scrub-Jay
- California Condor
- Acorns Woodpecker
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- California Thrasher
- California Quail
- White-Headed Woodpecker
- Mountains Quail
- Costa’s Hummingbird
- Lawrence’s Goldfinch
- Common Ground-Dove
- Feral Parrots
- Oak Titmouse
- Band-Tailed Pigeon
- Spotted Dove
- Allen’s Hummingbird
- Black-Chinned Sparrow
- Northern Pygmy-Owl
- Yellow-Billed Magpie
- Red-Shouldered Hawk
- White-tailed Hawk
- Mountain Plover
- Blue-Footed Booby
- Snowy Plover
- Black Oystercatcher
- Cedar Waxwing
- Cooper’s Hawk
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Understanding the behaviors and habitats of these bird species can not only enrich our appreciation of nature but also contribute to conservation efforts to protect these valuable resources for generations to come.
By learning about and appreciating the unique birdlife in California, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate balance of ecosystems and the vital role they play in our lives.
Where can I go birdwatching in California?
California has many great places for birdwatching, including national and state parks, wildlife refuges, and other natural areas. Some popular locations include Point Reyes National Seashore, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Salton Sea.
What is the state bird of California?
The state bird of California is the California quail.
What types of hummingbirds can be found in California?
There are several species of hummingbirds that can be found in California, including Anna’s hummingbird, Allen’s hummingbird, black-chinned hummingbird, and rufous hummingbird.
What is the best time of year for birdwatching in California?
The best time for birdwatching in California depends on the species you want to see. Spring and fall migration are good times to see a variety of birds, while winter is a good time to see waterfowl and other wintering species. Summer is a good time to see breeding species.
Can I feed birds in my backyard in California?
It is legal to feed birds in your backyard in California, but there are some important guidelines to follow. Make sure to provide appropriate food and water, and clean your feeders regularly to prevent the spread of disease. Also, be mindful of potential predators that may be attracted to your feeders.
What should I do if I find an injured bird in California?
If you find an injured bird in California, you can contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center or animal control agency for assistance. Do not attempt to handle or care for the bird yourself, as this can cause further harm.
Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin