Bird Watching

"From the smallest wings to giant shadows from the wingspans above, the bird watching here is unbelievable!" Small nesting birds, waterfowl, and raptors, we have it all... year-round!

American G0ldfinch

American G0ldfinch

Size and Shape: 4 1/4"- 5". Small finch with a short bill, long wings, and a short tail.

Color: This bird changes drastically depending on the season. In the spring and summer, look for the black head, black and white wings and tail, and highlighter yellow body. In the winter, their yellow plumage turns light brown

Behavior: These birds are strict vegetarians and almost exclusively seed eaters. If they eat an insect, it`s by accident. They have a bouncy flight pattern.

Habitat: Fields with wildflowers, open floodplains, and areas overgrown with weeds.

Field Marks: Look for the black head, wings, and bright yellow bodies.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: American Goldfinches nest later than most birds, waiting until the thistle arrives in June and July to make their nests.

Scientific Name: Spinus tristis

Photo by John Friedman
Calif0rnia Scrub Jay

Calif0rnia Scrub Jay

Size and Shape: 12". Medium-sized, long-tailed, without crest.

Color: Blue above (head, wings) with brown back patch, white eyebrow, dark cheek, white throat with partial blue breast band, blue-gray underside.

Behavior: Omnivorous. Eats more seeds in fall and winter, often buries acorns for future retrieval, and visits bird feeders. They also forage frequently on the ground, in the brush, usually in flocks. Secretive when nesting.

Habitat: Prefers deciduous, scrubby, open or semi-open terrain with thick brush, neighborhoods, gardens, farms, often near oaks.

Field Marks: Blue head with white eyebrow, neck wings, and tail, brownish-gray back, white throat, light gray underparts, long blue tail.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: California scrub jays are known to steal acorns from Acorn Woodpeckers and other jays. Because of that, California scrub jays will look around before hiding their food to ensure no other jays are watching.

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma californica

Photo by Scott Carpenter
American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Size and Shape: 11" with a wingspan of 23". Compact, swift-flying, small falcon.

Color: Wings blue-gray with black spots- tail may be rufous on the back with a broad black band and a white or rufous tip. Heavily streaked below with plain, dark back, vague mustache mark. Appears dark in flight with sharply pointed wings.

Behavior: Makes dashing flight from perch, captures prey with talons at blinding speed- diet almost exclusively of small songbirds and shorebirds. They rarely soar, and the typical flight observation bullet-like pass. More likely spotted perched atop prominent snags, conifers, cables, and power lines. Aggressively harasses raptors many times its size.

Habitat: Marshes, agricultural flats, broken woodlands, urban areas.

Field Marks: Blue-gray wings, black spots. Streaked rufous tail, dark eye stain marks.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: American Kestrels don`t build their nests. Instead, they use old nests made by other birds, ledges, or cavities (holes) in trees.

When on the hunt, American Kestrels perch on wires or poles, scanning for insects and other small prey below. When prey is spotted, Kestrels pounce, seizing it with one or both feet.

Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Photo by Mick Thompson
American R0bin

American R0bin

Size and Shape: 10". Bulky, large, round body, long legs and a relatively long tail.

Color: Solid gray back, stout yellow bill, dark stripes on the white throat, warm orange breast, white under-tail, white marks above and below the eye.

Behavior: Runs on the ground or stands still while searching for insects and worms and takes fruits from bushes, trees, and the ground. Winter flocks can number in thousands. Roosts communally at night in dense vegetation, often near fruit. It may migrate if driven south by cold but usually returns north as soon as temperature allows.

Habitat: Urban neighborhoods, parks, suburbs, farms, woodland edge and avoids dense forests.

Field Marks: Reddish orange breast and sides, gray upperparts, darker head, white eye crescents, dark tail with white corners in flight, yellow bill with black tip.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Robins change what they eat depending on the time of day. You might catch them eating earthworms on lawns and in parks in the morning. Later in the day, they eat more fruit.

Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius

Photo by Scott Carpenter
Anna`s Hummingbird

Anna`s Hummingbird

Size and Shape: 3.9", medium sized and stocky hummingbird.

Color: Female Anna`s Hummingbirds are largely green and gray, while the male birds also have green and gray bodies but unmistakable head and neck feathers that shine bright pink in the sunlight.

Behavior: Eats nectar from flowers, sugar water from hummingbird feeders, sap from holes in trees (when drilled by woodpeckers), small insects, and spiders. The male also has a diving courtship display.

Habitat: Forest openings, disturbed areas, brushy edges; lowlands in spring, moves up into flowering meadows in mountains as the season progresses.

Field Marks: Green and gray bodies and a bright iridescent pink head and neck for males.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Its rose crown isn`t the only thing that makes the male Anna`s Hummingbird stand out. Their song is learned through imitation and is very complex, making it the most distinct of any North American hummingbird.

Scientific Name: Calypte anna

Photo by Mick Thompson
Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Size and Shape: 33" with a wingspan of 82". Huge raptor, bill large and hooked, long broad wings held flat while soaring.

Color: Dark brown with white head, tail, huge yellow bill, feet, and eyes.

Behavior: Feeds mostly on fish and waterbirds, geese, carrion, and other prey; steals food from smaller raptors. Pairs return to territories in mid-fall and may work on nests; eggs are laid by early March, and young fledge by late July.

Habitat: Farmlands, lakes, rivers, ponds; nest usually near water.

Field Marks: Dark brown body, white head and tail. Bill is large and hooked. Yellow bill, feet, and eyes.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Bald Eagles are largely brown until they are four or five years old. Once they reach adulthood, they get their white heads and tails.

Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Photo by Mick Thomspon
Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

Size and Shape: 4 3/4"- 5 3/4". Small, long, slender tail and short bill. It also has a large head and a thick neck.

Color: Black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray, black and white back and wings, and buffy brown underparts.

Behavior:If you see one, you`ll likely see more as these birds travel in flocks. They also head to feeders and then quickly depart, often to stash their food to eat later or somewhere else.

Habitat: Forests, parks, and backyards.

Field Marks: Look for the black cap, bib, and gray and black back.

Song and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: You don`t have to have the ears of an expert to identify the call of a black-capped chickadee. They will chirp out their name for you: "Chicka-dee-dee-dee!" It`s also their alarm call, with more "dees" signifying greater nearby danger.

Scientific Name: Selasphorus rufus

Photo by Mich Thompson
Dark Eyed Junc0

Dark Eyed Junc0

Size and Shape: 5 3/4" and sparrow-shaped.

Color: Black hood, plain brown back, short, pink conical bill, white outer tail feathers, whitish belly.

Behavior: Flocks forage on the ground, also in trees, mostly for seeds and insects. Often scratches at the ground with feet. Regular beneath bird feeders.

Habitat: Nests in coniferous, mixed woods, particularly at brushy edges. In migration, winter can appear anywhere, including cities.

Field Marks: Dark gray hood, pale peach brown flanks, rusty back, sparrow-like body shape.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: One of the most common birds in North America, there are an estimated 630 million Dark-eyed Juncos across the continent.

Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis

Photo by Mick Tompson
Great H0rned 0wl

Great H0rned 0wl

Size and Shape: 22" with a wingspan of 45". Formidable owl, block-headed with prominent ear tufts.

Color: Mottled grayish-brown, yellow eyes, brownish facial disc, white throat, finely barred lower breast, belly.

Behavior: Hunts mostly at night, watching, listening for prey from perch, then pursuing, capturing it with talons. Their diet is highly varied, primarily small mammals, birds, giant insects, and cold-blooded animals, including fish. It does not build a nest and instead uses snags, cavities, and nests of other species, especially red-tailed hawks. One of the earliest-nesting birds lays eggs as early as January.

Habitat: Adaptable in areas such as woodlands, meadows, farmlands, and city parks.

Field Marks: Large ear tufts, mottled gray-brown overall, barred lower breast and belly.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Great horned owls are powerful, fearless hunters. They have been recorded preying on animals as large as great blue herons and skunks.

Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus

Photo by Scott Carpenter
N0rthern Flicker

N0rthern Flicker

Size and Shape: 12". Fairly large woodpeckers with a slim, rounded head, long bill, and stiff tail that tapers to a point.

Color: Robust and colorful, with black crescent bib and white rump. Barred brown above and spotted buff below with brightly colored feather shafts. Other characteristics include a brown cap, gray face, and red shafts, and the male may also have a red mustache mark.

Behavior: Forages on the ground for ants, in trees for fruits, and occasionally seeds where available. Loud calling, drumming, boisterous interactions, and the ability to thrive in urban areas make it noticeable. Excavates cavity nest in live or dead wood. Flocks in migration.

Habitat: Open woodlands, semi-open areas, urban woodlots, and lawns.

Field Marks: Gray face with brown around the eye, red mustache, brown back with horizontal black bars, red shafts to flight feathers.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Unlike other woodpeckers, flickers are mostly brown instead of black and mainly look for food on the ground. However, they occasionally forage (search for food) on tree trunks and limbs.

Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus

Photo by Hayley Crews
0sprey

0sprey

Size and Shape: 23" with a wingspan of 63". One of North America`s largest birds of prey with extended wings, held at wingtips, angled slightly backward (gull-like.)

Color: Blackish above except for white underparts contrast with dark mask, powerfully banded wings, tail, and dark eye stripe.

Behavior: Feeds almost exclusively on fish, hovering over the water, plunging feet-first, and sometimes catching prey well below the surface. Feet equipped with bumps called spicules that assist talons in holding fish. Pairs raise young on top of broken trees, power towers, and platforms by building a bulky nest, often near human habitation.

Habitat: Usually near water, but migrants may be anywhere.

Field Marks: Feature a white breast and belly, black back, and black, long wings angled slightly backward. Also, they have a dark eye stripe, crown, and a white forehead.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Osprey exclusively eats fish, so look for them near rivers and lakes. They prefer shallow water where fish are close to the surface.

Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Photo by Mick Thompson
Peregrine Falc0n

Peregrine Falc0n

Size and Shape: 16" with a wingspan of 43". Sleek, powerfully built, crow-sized falcon with long wings reaching tail tip when perched, sharply pointed in flight.

Color: Gray above, dark barring below, light gown on chest, dark head, variable salmon-colored or whitish bib.

Behavior: Catches birds in mid-air, making spectacular dives at speeds over 200 miles per hour. Prey ranges from songbirds to ducks, Rock Pigeons shorebirds favored. Nest on a bare ledge, bridges in urban areas fiercely defend territory.

Habitat: Open areas, rivers, lakes, wetlands; nests on buildings, bridges, cliffs, and other tall structures.

Field Marks: Black mustache mark on face, long pointed wings, dark barring under wings, below breast.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Peregrine Falcons can reach up to 200 miles per hour when diving to capture prey! This makes them the fastest bird on earth.

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

Photo by Mick Thompson
Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Size and Shape: 20" with a wingspan of 48". Large hawk with expansive, rounded wings and short, wide tail.

Color: Rich brown above and pale below, dark line on the leading edge of underwing, from neck to wrist, dark head, streaked band across belly, reddish tail.

Behavior: Hunt for various prey, mostly from perch, swooping to capture prey in talons. Also soars, sometimes "kites" in stationary hover in the wind. They will take carrion. Protects territory year-round, calling at intruders.

Habitat: Open habitats, edges - highly adaptable. Fields, freeway corridors, clearcuts, open woods, urban areas, nesting on buildings.

Field Marks: Large hawk. Long, broad, rounded wings. Reddish tail with a thin black band near the tip. Mottled white shoulder patches.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Whenever you hear the sound of a raptor in a film, it`s usually a red-tailed hawk because of their recognizable cry. Even if another species is shown!

To spot a red tailed hawk, keep an eye out along open fields. While you may see them soaring overhead in slow circles, you`re most likely to find them atop fence posts, telephone poles, or trees, as they spend most of their active hours perched.

Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

Photo by Mick Thompson
S0ng Sparr0w

S0ng Sparr0w

Size and Shape: 6". Medium-sized, fairly bulky. Bill is short and stout, the head fairly rounded, the tail is long and rounded, and the wings are broad.

Color: Streaked brownish above with brown wings. Dark, dense streaking may merge into a central spot on a whitish breast. Wide gray eyebrow, brown crown with gray central stripe, dark mustache mark.

Behavior: Feeds mostly on the ground on insects, seeds (including below bird feeders), and fruit. Less prone to flock but can be gregarious in migration. Sings year-round; in the region, begins nesting in late winter.

Habitat: Prefers shrubs, thicket edge in wetter areas, but frequents semi-open habitats, broken forest.

Field Marks: Breast with coarse brown streaks, dark mustache, back gray with brown streaks, face gray with brown markings.

Songs and Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts:M/em> Many birds start to breed when the days get longer. But Song Sparrows don`t just look at how long the sun is shining. They start breeding when the temperatures get warm enough.

Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia

Photo by Mick Thompson
Sp0tted T0whee

Sp0tted T0whee

Size and Shape: 7 3/4". Large, striking sparrow.

Color: Dark hood, upper body contrast with rufous sides, white belly, bold white spots on back, white outer corners on a black tail. Dark conical bill, and it has red eyes.

Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground for seeds, insects, and fruits. Scratches ground vigorously with both feet while feeding. It does not flock, although it is found with other sparrows. Eats spilled grain on the ground below bird feeders.

Habitat: Open woods with dense, shrubby understory, thickets, overgrown fields.

Field Marks: Black hood and white belly, red eyes, rufous flanks and under-tail, prominent white spots and streaks on wings and back.

Songs and Calls:Listen here.

Fun Facts: Early in the breeding season, male Spotted Towhees are dedicated songsters, spending 70 to 90 percent of their mornings singing to attract a mate. Once they find their match, they shift their focus and only spend about 5 percent of their time singing.

Photo by Mick Thompson