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 Robin

American Robin

Size & Shape: 10` Bulky, large, round body, long legs and fairly long tail.

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

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

Habitat: Urban neighborhoods, parks, suburbs, farms, woodland edge. Avoids dense forest.

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 & Calls: Listen here.

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

Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius

Photo by Scott Carpenter
American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Size & 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 that are overgrown with weeds.

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

Songs & 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
Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Size & Shape: 20", wingspan 48". Large hawk with very broad, 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 wide variety of 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 tip. Mottled white shoulder patches.

Songs & 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 in trees, as they spend the vast majority of their active hours perched.

Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

Photo by Mick Thompson
Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Size & Shape: 33", wingspan 82". Very large raptor, bill large and hooked, long broad wings held flat while soaring.

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

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

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

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

Songs & 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
Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Size & Shape: 16", wingspan 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 defends territory.

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

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

Songs & Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Peregrine Falcons can reach speeds 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
Anna`s Hummingbird

Anna`s Hummingbird

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

Color: Females Anna`s Hummingbirds are largely green and gray. The male birds have green and gray bodies and 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, spiders. Male has diving courtship display.

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

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

Songs & 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.

Latin Name: Calypte anna


Photo by Mick Thompson
Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Size & Shape: 22", wingspan 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. Diet extremely varied, mostly small mammals but also birds, large insects, cold-blooded animals including fish. Does not build a nest, uses snags, cavities, nests of other species, especially Red-tailed Hawk. One of the earliest-nesting birds lays eggs as early as January.

Habitat: Adaptable. Woodlands, meadows, farmlands, city parks.

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

Songs & 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
Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

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

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

Behavior: Feeds mostly on ground on insects, seeds (including below bird feeders,) some 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 & Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: When the days get longer, many birds start to breed. But Song Sparrows don`t just look to how long the sun is shining. They start breeding when the temperatures get warm enough.

Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia

Photo by Mick Thompson
Osprey

Osprey

Size & Shape: 23", wingspan 63". One of the largest birds of prey in North America with long wings, held at wingtips, angled slightly backward (gull-like.)

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

Behavior: Feeds almost exclusively on fish, hovering over the water, plunging feet-first, 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 tree, power tower, platform, building a bulky nest, often near human habitation.

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

Field Marks: White breast and belly. Black back and wings. Long wings, angled slightly backward. Dark eye stripe. Crown and forehead white.

Songs & Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: Osprey exclusively eat 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
California Scrub Jay

California Scrub Jay

Size & 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, winter, often buries acorns for future retrieval, visits bird feeders. Forages frequently on 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.

Voice: Listen here.

Fun Facts: California Scrub-Jays have been known to steal acorns from Acorn Woodpeckers and other jays. Because of that, California Scrub-Jays will look around before hiding their food to make sure no other jays are watching.

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma californica

Photo by Scott Carpenter
American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Size & Shape: 11", wingspan 23". Compact, swift-flying, small falcon.

Color: Wings blue-gray with black spots. Tail rufous on the back with a broad black band and 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 small songbirds, shorebirds. Rarely soars; 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 & Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: American Kestrels dont build their own 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
Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco

Size & Shape: 5 3/4". Sparrow-shaped.

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

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

Habitat: Nests in coniferous, mixed woods, particular 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 & 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
Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

Size & Shape: 4 3/4"- 5 3/4". Small long slender tail and short bill. Has a large head and 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 and 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
Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Size & 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 ground for seeds, insects, fruits. Scratches ground vigorously with both feet while feeding. It does not flock, although 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 undertail, prominent white spots and streaks on wings and back.

Songs & 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
Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

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

Color: Robust, colorful, with black crescent bib, white rump. Barred brown above, spotted buff below, with brightly colored feather shafts. Brown cap, gray face, red shafts, male with red mustache mark.

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

Habitat: Open woodlands, any semi-open area, urban woodlots, 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, though they will occasionally forage (search for food) on tree trunks and limbs.

Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus

Photo by Hayley Crews