Birds in California

Because of its numerous ecosystems, California is equally attractive to birds as it is to humans. In California, more than 710 species of birds have been documented. It has been said that any bird-watcher who travels to California’s Coast is guaranteed to see a diverse array of birds. 

The Spring season in California brings a peak to the bird’s population across the state. Many birds that are native in California have already started nesting and feeding their developing young. Species that stayed the winter here are preparing to migrate north or further into the mountains to reproduce. Meanwhile, long-distance migrant birds from subtropical and tropical climates begin to arrive. This implies that California is a home for its native birds and a home to several migratory birds.

One thing to take note of California is its state bird. California’s state bird is called the California Quail. The Audubon Society selected this bird as their state bird in 1931, which is common in Northwest California. On the other hand, the California Condor and Calliope Hummingbird are considered to be the state’s largest and smallest birds, respectively.

If you are ready to go bird-watching in California and to learn more of its features, keep reading this article and know how to recognize birds that you might encounter across the state and how to get more birds to visit your place in the future.

On this page, you can find an overview of birds in California. Just click on any of the images or links to learn more about the bird. If you have encountered a bird in California that is not yet on our list or that you cannot identify yourself, we’ll be happy to identify it for you. Simply take a picture of it and upload your picture, a quick description and the U.S. state where it was found here on our bird identification page

Birds of prey in California

The enormous state of California has a lot more to offer, such as vast open deserts, mountains, and thick, massive forests in the north. Due to this, a broad range of wildlife, including a diverse array of birds of prey, make this state their home.

Birds of prey, also known as the Raptors, are predatory birds with unique characteristics that enable them to live in the wild. These birds of prey belong to the family of Accipitridae and the order of Accipitriformes. Birds of prey have curved, hooked beaks and strong, sharp talons that enable them to tear the flesh of their prey and carry it in long-distance aerial travel. They also have keen eyes that allow them to see their prey from a distance. Hawks, Falcons, Kites, Ospreys, Owls, and Eagles are considered the six significant kinds of raptors present in California. The largest bird in California and North America, the California Condor, belongs to this group of raptors or birds of prey.

Below, you can find a list of the most common birds of prey in California. You can click on the images or names of the birds to learn more about these birds.

Accipiter Striatus - Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Accipiter Striatus – Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The sharp-shinned hawk, Accipiter striatus, is a small but large-headed hawk that breeds from southeastern Canada and Maine south to ...
Buteo Jamaicensis - Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo Jamaicensis – Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis, the red-tailed hawk, breeds over much of North America, from Alaska to Panama and the West Indies. It ...
Aquila Chrysaetos - Golden Eagle in the United States

Aquila Chrysaetos – Golden Eagle

Because of their size and activity levels, Aquila Chrysaetos or commonly known as Golden eagles are among the most frequently ...
Circus Hudsonius - Northern Harrier

Circus Hudsonius – Northern Harrier

Known as the northern harrier, Circus Hudsonius is a bird of prey. It breeds throughout the northern hemisphere, including Canada ...
Accipiter cooperii - Cooper's hawk

Accipiter Cooperii – Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper's hawk, known to be Accipiter cooperii, is a medium-sized hawk found in southern Canada and Mexico. This species ...
Haliaeetus leucocephalus - Bald eagle in the Alaska, US

Haliaeetus Leucocephalus – Bald Eagle

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a North American raptor. With the white-tailed eagle, it is a species pair. Its ...
Buteo lineatus - Red-shouldered hawk

Buteo Lineatus – Red-Shouldered Hawk

Known as the Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, breeds in eastern North America, California, and northern and northeastern-central Mexico. Throughout its ...

California Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds of the family Trochilidae and order Apodiformes are small, often colorful birds known for their dash of speed and majestic mid-air hovering abilities. These little sparkly birds never fail to amaze individuals, and if you are wondering, California is the excellent location to spot these Hummingbirds. Many hummingbirds are migratory, spending the winter in Mexico or further south before flying north to reproduce, and many of them travel through California. 

There are a total of 361 species of Hummingbirds, with 8 of them located commonly in the southern state of California. Among these 8 Southern California Hummingbirds, Anna’s Hummingbird is the only hummingbird that is native and spends the entire year in California. It is also the only non-migratory hummingbird in the state. Also, out of these 8 is the Calliope Hummingbird, which is considered the smallest hummingbird and the smallest bird found in California.

Cabrillo National Monument, where you may see Calliope Hummingbirds in April, and the University of California Arboretum and Botanic Garden, where you can see Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds on the paved trail, are two of the most fantastic places to watch these hummingbirds in California. 

If you are interested, this article will go through the specifics of these species’ distinctive features and qualities.

Owls in California

California is famous for a lot of species due to its oak woodlands and Mediterranean climate. Summers in this state is arid and warm, while winters are moderate. No wonder why it is home to a total of 14 owl species. 

The 14 owl species that can be sighted in California are the Barn Owl, Flammulated Owl, Western Screech-owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Pygmy-owl, Elf Owl, Burrowing Owl, Spotted Owl, Barred Owl, Great Gray Owl, Long-eared owl, Short-eared Owl, and the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Some of these species only dwell in trees, while others only live underground. Their existence is most threatened in some way, and the law already safeguards several.

The world’s owls have approximately 200 species, which are divided into two families. Most of them belong to the Strigidae family. The famous Barn Owl is the only owl species of the Tytonidae family and is the most renowned owl species in Northern California. Generally, owl species have a significantly narrower range of appearance and specialization than daytime raptors. Despite its ordinarily nocturnal feature, owls’ sizes vary from the tiny Elf Owl to the massive Great Gray Owl. 

The following is a quick rundown of the 14 owl species that can be sighted in California’s state parks, especially in the most known and safeguarded park, the National Redwood and States Park.

Finches in California

The family Fringillidae, also known as the Finch species, composed of more than 200 species, is a family of passerine birds, which means that these species eat seeds as a primary food source. These birds utilize their stout conical bills for eating seeds. Many finches survive winter in cold places due to their seed-eating habits. Therefore they make up an even higher portion of the bird population during that season. They can be found in a wide variety of environments where they reside permanently and do not migrate. There are a total of 6 finch bird species found in California. The majority of California’s finch birds inhabit the state’s northern coniferous woods and mountain ranges. Finch birds are also perching birds, which means they build their nests in tree branches. Somehow several California finches build their nests on mountain cliffs. 

These birds’ sizes vary from the tiniest finch species named Andean Siskin to the largest finch species called Collared Grosbeak. At first glance, these little to medium-sized birds appear ordinary. When viewed more attentively, though, their natural beauty appears. Finches have it all, from the brilliant plumages of the three goldfinch species to the distinctive and stunning bills of crossbills and grosbeaks.

This article will detail the six different species of California finch birds. It will cover all of their unique appearances and attributes so that readers may readily recognize them if they come across some of these birds.

Woodpeckers in California

Woodpeckers come in approximately 300 different species, with about 22 of them occurring in the United States. There are at least 15 species of woodpeckers in California, according to my research. As a result, California has more woodpecker species than most other areas in the United States.

When woodpeckers are looking for food or drilling holes for their nests, they peck bark or branches of trees randomly and quietly, but they drum consistently during the breeding season to declare their territory. The drumming that these woodpeckers do is used to alert nearby birds to their presence. Therefore they choose trees that have a good resonance. The sound and rhythm vary by species, but they all strike a tree with their beaks at fast speeds in one location.

Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker, Williamson’s Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, and Gilded Flicker are among the woodpecker species that you might find across California.

In this article, we’ll go through all 15 of these woodpecker species found in California. We’ll have a photo of each species to help individuals identify it, speak about its appearance, discover some intriguing facts, and inform them where and when they may find it in California.

California ducks, geese and swans

Ducks, geese, and swans are members of the Anatidae family of aquatic or water birds. The family has a broad range occurring on all of the world’s continents. These birds have evolved to swim, float on the water’s surface, and dive in shallow water in some situations. Anatidae have around 174 species in the family. These species can be found in most lakes, rivers, marshes, lagoons, bays, and other bodies of water where they may find food. During the winter months, numerous ducks, geese, and swans can be seen in farm fields, eating leftover harvests.

In California, about 51 waterbird species can be sighted, wherein 41 of these are ducks while 7 and 3 of these are geese and swans, respectively. Its size varies from the smallest, the Green-winged Teal duck, to the largest, the Trumpeter Swan. These species are commonly found in California’s Central Valley due to its northern tundra and winter weather.

Aside from calling these species aquatic or water birds, birds that reside on or around water are also known as waterfowl. Because ducks, geese, and swans are all waterfowl, they have a lot in common. Webbed feet and thick, flat bills characterize them all. They do, however, have several differences. Let’s take a look at them:

Other small birds in California

Small birds in California are usually found in people’s backyards, which is why they are commonly referred to as “backyard birds.” It is uncommon for people in California to spot large-sized bird species in their backyard since these birds are often found in forests, mountains, or around bodies of water. 

People in California adore having these little birds in their backyard. Aside from keeping their backyards lively, these birds are incredibly entertaining to look at due to their adorable and vibrant appearance. Many people in the state create bird feeders to keep these small birds coming back to their yards. 

Mourning Doves and Lesser Goldfinches are more numerous in the summer, while Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black Phoebes, and Ruby-crowned Phoebes are more prevalent in the winter.

In the section below, we will detail the different backyard bird species in California. These are not all species in the state or even close to it since some of these are migrant birds, but they are among the most common backyard birds in California. So, if you’re prepared to go backyard birding in California, keep reading to learn how to recognize birds and how to get more birds to visit your yard.

Best Birdwatching Spots in California

California is home to more than 700 bird species. With this, the state is considered to have the most bird species than any other state worldwide. This is unsurprising given the state’s vastness and diversity of environments. The state’s 840-mile coastline provides some of the best pelagic birding in the state, and all of this territory is covered by prominent and active birders who are always on the lookout for the unique kinds of birds in the state.

Birdwatchers in California, whether amateur or expert, enjoy the wildlife diversity along the state’s coast. California also has the nation’s only statewide network of marine protected areas, which provide beautiful places to watch a diverse range of species and added protection for their most vital breeding and feeding grounds.

Southeast Farallon Island is considered to be the best place in California to go bird viewing. In this area, there are a total of 435 bird species that can be seen or found. According to eBird’s research, there are ten most incredible spots in California with an abundance of bird species and Southeast Farallon Island leading. The following is a list of the top ten best birding places in California, along with the number of bird species that can be found there.

  1. Southeast Farallon Island – 435
  2. Andrew Molera State Park – 364
  3. Point Reyes – 357
  4. Point Pinos – 342
  5. Death Valley National Park – 341
  6. South End of Salton Sea – 340
  7. Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary – 339
  8. IRWD San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary – 330
  9. Bodega Bay – 329
  10. Galileo Hill – 324
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