Top 33 Backyard Birds in California (Free ID Chart)

California Bird identification Worksheet chart free printable

Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in California?

Well, this guide will help you to find out how to identify these birds by sight and sound and what time of year you can spot them in California. Also, get a free ID chart to print with the most common backyard birds in California.

Mourning Doves and Lesser Goldfinch are more common birds in summer in California, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black Phoebes, and Ruby-crowned Phoebe’s are more common birds in winter in California.

Backyard birds in California all year: House Finch, Black Phoebe, Anna’s Hummingbird, American Crow, California Scrub-Jay, California Towhee, Lesser Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, Bushtit, European Starling, Northern Mockingbird, Steller’s Jay, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Bluebird, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, House Sparrow, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Allen’s Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch
Backyard birds in California in summer:
Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow
Backyard birds in California in winter:
Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe

These are the most common backyard birds in California that may visit your lawn or feeders. They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists submitted by bird watchers on ebird.

This article gives you identification information and photos to help you identify and attract more of the common backyard birds that you can spot in California.

Bird Facts for California

The California Quail is the state bird of California.  This bird was chosen in 1931 by the Audubon Society. It is a plump bird with a black plume on its head, and it spends most of its time on the ground foraging. 

There are 710 species of bird recorded in California, according to ebird.  Some of the highlight birds in California include Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, White-faced Ibis, Rough-legged Hawk, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Golden Eagle, Snowy Egret, Red-shouldered Hawk, California Quail, Western Tanager, Brown Pelican, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Harrier, and Cedar Waxwing.

The biggest bird in California is the California Condor, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (3 m).  These immense black birds have white under the wings and a naked red head.

The smallest bird in California is the Calliope Hummingbird which is only about 3 in long, but they can travel long distances from Canada all the way to southern Mexico.

The most common bird in California is the House Finch, which is seen in 44% of recorded checklists for the state on ebird throughout the year.

California has 9 national parks, 20 national forests, 36 national wildlife refuges, and 280 state parks that offer excellent bird-watching opportunities if you want to get out and watch birds in their natural environment.

Read to the end of this article to find out more about the other birds you may be able to spot if you go out birding in California and how to attract and identify birds.

Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheets for California

These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in California at different times of the year. So when you want to do some backyard birding, these handy guides have pictures and space to either tick off the types of birds you have seen or keep a tally of the total number of birds.

California Bird identification sheet 1 free printable
California Bird identification sheet 2 free printable
California Bird identification sheet 3 free printable

Top 33 Backyard Birds In California:

1. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are more frequently spotted in California during winter, but some also spend the breeding season in the north of the state. They are recorded in 5% of summer checklists and 48% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings.

Females may be slightly brown, and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.

  • Setophaga coronata
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)

Yellow-rumped Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and parts of the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.

During migration, they can be seen in the Midwest before overwintering in southern and southwestern US states and the Pacific Coast and into Mexico and Central America.

You can find Yellow-rumped Warblers in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat mostly insects and on migration, and in winter, they eat mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler Song:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC602699. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602699.

Attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.

2. White-crowned Sparrow

white-crowned sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows are frequently spotted in California during winter and appear in 44% of checklists at this time. They are more common from September to April, but some hang around all year and appear in 6% of summer checklists.

White-crowned Sparrows are large grayish sparrows with long tails, small bills, and bold black and white stripes on their heads.

  • Zonotrichia leucophrys
  • Length: 5.9-6.3 in (15-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.0 oz (25-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3-9.4 in (21-24 cm)

White-crowned Sparrows breed in Alaska and arctic Canada before heading south to the lower 48 and Mexico for winter. However, some may remain along the Pacific Coast and the mountainous west all year.

You can find White-crowned Sparrows in weedy fields, along roadsides, forest edges,  and in yards foraging for seeds of weeds and grasses or fruit such as elderberries and blackberries.

White-crowned Sparrow Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC678159. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/678159.

Attract White-crowned Sparrows to your backyard with sunflower seeds, and they will also eat seeds that other birds drop at feeders.

3. House Finch

House Finches are residents of California all year. They do not migrate and appear in 47% of summer checklists and 41% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

House Finches males have a red head and breast, and the rest of their bodies are mainly brown-streaked. Females are brown-streaked all over. 

  • Haemorhous mexicanus
  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)

Originally only in western US states, House Finches were introduced to eastern US states and have done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.

They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders in noisy groups that are hard to miss.

House Finch Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC653352. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/653352.

House Finch Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC612573. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/612573.

Attract House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

There are lots of other red birds in California that you can spot.

4. Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are spotted all year in California, but they are more common during the breeding season. They are recorded in 42% of summer checklists and 29% of winter checklists for the state.

Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds with plump bodies and long tails. They are a soft brown color with black spots on the wings. Males are slightly heavier than females.

  • Zenaida macroura
  • Length: 9.1-13.4 in (23-34 cm)
  • Weight: 3.0 -6.0 oz (96-170 g)
  • Wingspan: 17.7 in (45 cm)

Mourning Doves are common over all of the lower 48 all year but may migrate after breeding from the north of the Midwest and southern Canada.

Mourning Doves can be seen perching on telephone wires and foraging for seeds on the ground in grasslands, fields, and backyards. They can also be found in open areas or woodland edges.

Mourning Dove call:

Credit: Peter Ward and Ken Hall, XC613539. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/613539.

Attract Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or platform feeders. They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.

5. Black Phoebe

black phoebe

Black Phoebes are spotted all year in California but are more often seen during winter. They appear in 32% of summer checklists and 44% of winter checklists for the state.

Black Phoebes are small, plump flycatchers that are black on the back, head, and chest and white underneath. They can look gray in some light.

  • Sayornis nigricans
  • Length: 6.3 in (16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.8 oz (15-22 g)

Black Phoebes are mostly resident across Southwestern States, Mexico, and Central America. Some in the north of this range may migrate south after breeding.

You can usually find Black Phoebes near water, such as coastal areas, rivers, lakes, or ponds. They perch above the ground and wait for insects or arthropods to come along, such as beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, flies, bees, and spiders.

Black Phoebes’ song:

Paul Marvin, XC486800. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/486800.

Attract Black Phoebes to your yard by adding water features and native plants to attract insects. They may also build a nest under the eaves if there is a source of mud nearby to build their nest out of.

6. Anna’s Hummingbird

annas hummingbird male

Anna’s Hummingbirds are seen in California all year. They appear in 35% of summer checklists and 41% of winter checklists.

Anna’s Hummingbirds are tiny birds that are mostly green and gray. The male’s head and throat are iridescent reddish-pink, but the female’s throat is grayish with bits of red spotting.

  • Calypte anna
  • Length: 3.9 in (10 cm)
  • Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (3-6 g)
  • Wingspan: 4.7 in (12 cm)

Unusually Anna’s Hummingbirds do not migrate, and they are the most common hummingbird along the Pacific Coast.

You can find Anna’s Hummingbirds near large colorful blossoms during the spring, and they readily visit hummingbird feeders that you can fill with homemade hummingbird nectar.

They make a dramatic dive display during courtship as the males climb up to 130 feet into the air before diving back to the ground with a burst of noise from their tail feathers.

Anna’s Hummingbird Call:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC501895. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/501895.

Attract Anna’s Hummingbirds to your backyard with nectar feeders and lots of colorful plants.

If you get a buzz out of hummingbirds, then check out all the hummingbirds in California and when is best to spot them.

7. American Crow

American Crow for identification

American Crows are residents of California all year. They occur in 33% of summer checklists and 38% of winter checklists.

American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound.

  • Corvus brachyrhynchos
  • Length: 15.8-20.9 in (40-53 cm)
  • Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz (316-620 g)
  • Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in (85-100 cm)

American Crows are residents all year in most of the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast in Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and the northern Midwest migrate south for winter.

They are common birds found in most habitats, including treetops, woods, fields, beaches, or towns.

They eat most things and usually feed on the ground, eating earthworms, insects, seeds, and fruit. They also eat fish, young turtles, mussels, and clams and will even eat eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.

In winter, American Crows gather in large numbers of up to two million crows to sleep in noisy communal roosts.

American Crow Call:

Credit: Russ Wigh, XC569711. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/569711.

Attract American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts, but they can become a nuisance as they are attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.

8. California Scrub-Jay

California scrub-jay

California Scrub-Jays do not migrate and are residents of California all year. They are recorded in 31% of summer and winter checklists for the state.

California Scrub-Jays are large songbirds with long tails, whitish undersides and rich blue and gray backs, and a bright blue breast band. They are larger than a robin but smaller than a crow. They look visually similar to the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay but with more vivid colors.

  • Aphelocoma californica
  • Length: 11.0-11.8 in (28-30 cm)
  • Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.3 in (39 cm)

California Scrub-Jays are resident all year on the Pacific Coast from British Columbia down to Baja California.

You can find California Scrub-Jay in scrub, oak woodlands, and in suburban yards and parks. They eat insects and fruit during spring and summer and then seeds and nuts, especially acorns, in fall and winter.

California Scrub-Jay sounds: Their call is high-pitched and repetitive. They also sing a courtship song of soft whistles.

Richard E. Webster, XC662075. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/662075.

Attract California Scrub-Jays to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts in your feeders.

9. California Towhee

California Towhee

California Towhees are residents of California all year. They do not migrate, and they appear in 31% of summer checklists and 27% of winter checklists for the state.

California Towhees are large, brown,  plump sparrows with long tails, short wings, and a rusty patch under their tails.

  • Melozone crissalis
  • Length: 8.3-9.8 in (21-25 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-2.4 oz (37-67 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.4 in (29 cm)

California Towhees are only found in the coastal chaparral scrub areas of California, Oregon, and Baja California. They will also visit backyards, sit on fenceposts, and chase their reflections in car mirrors or windows.

California Towhees’ diets are mostly seeds from grasses and herbs, but they also eat berries such as elderberry, coffeeberry, and acorns. 

California Towhee sounds: The males sing a simple song that consists of a short, fast trill at a couple of different pitches.

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC561071. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/561071.

Attract Califonia Towhees to your yard with millet on-ground feeders and plant native berry plants.

10. Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch male

Lesser Goldfinches remain in California all year. They are recorded in 30% of summer checklists and 22% of winter checklists for the state.

Lesser Goldfinches are tiny bright yellow and black songbirds with long pointed wings and short notched tails. Females have olive backs and are more dull yellow underneath.

  • Spinus psaltria
  • Length: 3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-11.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 5.9-7.9 in (15-20 cm)

Lesser Goldfinches live in the southwestern US states and the West Coast all year, but those that breed in the interior of western US states migrate for winter.

Lesser Goldfinches can be found in large flocks in open habitats, including thickets, weedy fields, forest clearings, parks, and gardens. They forage for seeds, especially sunflower seeds, but also fruits from elderberry, coffeeberry, and buds from cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, and alders.

Lesser Goldfinch call/Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC428720. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/428720.

Attract Lesser Goldfinches to your yard with sunflower seeds and nyjer in tube feeders or platform feeders.

There are so many yellow birds in California that you will spot, especially in spring.

11. Song Sparrow

Song sparrow for identification

Song Sparrows can be spotted all year in California. They are recorded in 28% of summer checklists and 24% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

Song sparrows are not as remarkable looking as other backyard birds, but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.

  • Melospiza melodia
  • Length: 4.7-6.7 in (12-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz (12-53 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm)

Song Sparrow live all year in the northern US states. Those that breed in Canada migrate to southern US states for winter.

They can be found in open, shrubby, and wet areas, often perched on a low shrub singing. They are often found at backyard feeders.

Song Sparrows eat a wide variety of insects and plants, including beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms. They will also eat buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, blackberries, wheat, and rice.

Song Sparrow Song:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC692182. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/692182.

Song Sparrow Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC683210. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/683210.

Attract Song Sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.

Sparrows are known as LBJs (Little brown jobs) but if you want to know more, check out this guide to sparrows in California.

12. Ruby-crowned Kinglet

ruby crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are winter birds in California and are usually spotted from September to mid-May. They are recorded in 30% of winter checklists.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are small songbirds that are olive-green, and the males have a brilliant red crown that is usually flat, so hard to see.

  • Corthylio calendula
  • Length: 3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (5-10 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)

Ruby-crowned Kinglets breed in Canada and the mountainous west before migrating to southern and southwestern US states and Mexico for the winter. 

Ruby-crowned Kinglets can be hard to spot as they are fast-moving quiet birds that flit around in the foliage of lower branches and shrubs and trees looking for spiders and insects.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC628827. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/628827.

Attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets with suet or platform feeders with hulled sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, and mealworms.

13. Spotted Towhee

spotted towhee

Spotted Towhees are residents of California all year, and they are recorded in 26% of summer checklists and 18% of winter checklists.

Spotted Towhees are large sparrows that are black on their head, throat, and back in the males and brown in the females. Both males and females have reddish-brown sides, white bellies, and white spots on the wings and back. They have long tails and are about the size of a Robin.

  • Pipilo maculatus
  • Length: 6.7-8.3 in (17-21 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.7 oz (33-49 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.0 in (28 cm)

Spotted Towhees live in western US states, but those in the interior of the north migrate south after breeding to Texas and surrounding areas.

You can find Spotted Towhees on the ground in dense tangles of shrubs scratching around for insects, including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, wasps, and bees. They also eat acorns, berries, and seeds.

Spotted Towhee Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC662426. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/662426.

Attract Spotted Towhees to your yard if you leave overgrown borders, and they will visit platform feeders or ground feeders for black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, and milo.

14. American Robin

American Robin for identification

American Robins live in California all year and appear in 24% of summer checklists and 20% of winter checklists.

American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and backs with red or orange breasts. They tend to roost in trees in winter, so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.

  • Turdus migratorius
  • Length: 7.9-11.0 in (20-28 cm)
  • Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz (77-85 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

American Robins are residents in the lower 48 and the coast of Western Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and inland Alaska move south for the winter.

American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, and mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.

American Robin Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC656426. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/656426.

American Robin Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC698509. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/698509.

Attract American Robins to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground. Also, try planting some native plants that produce berries, such as juniper, sumac, hawthorn, and dogwood.

15. Dark-eyed Junco

Dark eyed junco for identification

Dark-eyed Juncos stay in California all year. They are recorded in 21% of summer checklists and 25% of winter checklists.

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.

  • Junco hyemalis
  • Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in (18-25 cm)

Dark-eyed Juncos remain resident all year in northeastern and western US states and the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to the United States.

They can be found in open and partially wooded areas, often on the ground, and are common across the continent. 

Dark-eyed Junco Song:

Credit: Bobby Wilcox, XC667170. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/667170.

Attract Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders with a variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Platform feeders or scattered on the ground are best.

16. Bushtit

bushtit

Bushtits are residents of California all year. They do not migrate and appear in 23% of summer checklists and 19% of winter checklists for the state.

Bushtits are tiny, almost round, soft gray birds with a long tail and stubby bill. They have slight brown tinges to the face and underneath.

  • Psaltriparus minimus
  • Length: 2.8-3.1 in (7-8 cm)
  • Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (4-6 g)

Bushtits live all year in the western US states.

You can find Bushtits in open woodland or scrubby areas, parks, and backyards. Their diet is insects and spiders, such as caterpillars, beetle, wasps, and ants.

Bushtits make amazing hanging nests out of plant material and spider webs that hang down about a foot and may take a month to build.

Bushtits call:

Paul Marvin, XC672699. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/672699.

Attract bushtits to your yard by planting native shrubs and trees, and they may visit feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, or mealworms from platform feeders.

17. European Starling

European Starlings are considered introduced species in California and can be seen in the state all year. They appear in 23% of summer and winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

European Starlings are not native but are now one of the most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with iridescent purple, green, and blue tones. 

  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz (60-96 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

European Starlings live in all of North America, except the north of Canada and Alaska.

They are considered a pest by some due to their aggressive behavior. These birds fly in large, noisy flocks and can be seen perched in groups on the top of trees or flying over fields.

European Starling Calls:

Credit: Lars Edenius, XC657601. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/657601.

Starlings predominantly eat insects, including beetles, flies and caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders. However, they also eat fruit, including cherries, holly berries, mulberries, Virginia Creeper, sumac, blackberries, and grains and seeds.

Attract European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.

18. Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrows are winter birds in California from September to May and are recorded in 22% of checklists at this time.

Golden-crowned Sparrows are grayish-brown underneath and streaked brown on the back. Their heads have a black crown and a bright-yellow forehead.

The colors are duller and brown on the crown in winter, and the yellow forehead is also duller.

  • Zonotrichia atricapilla
  • Length: 5.9-7.1 in (15-18 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-1.2 oz (30-33 g)

Golden-crowned Sparrows breed in Alaska and western Canada before migrating to the West Coast for winter. 

You can find Golden-crowned Sparrow in weedy fields scratching for seeds such as dock, sumac, and geranium. They also eat fruit such as apples, grapes, elderberry, and olives. Insects also make up some of their diets, such as ants, beetles, butterflies, and termites.

Golden-crowned Sparrows sounds: Their song is a sad, slow series of whistles that decrease in pitch.

Credit: Steve Hampton, XC680976. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/680976.

Nests of Golden-crowned Sparrows are usually on the ground and made from twigs, moss, and leaves. They are lined with softer materials, such as animal hair, grass, and feathers.

They lay around four eggs, which take just under two weeks to hatch and a further ten days for the young to fledge.

Attract Golden-crowned Sparrows to your backyard with seeds on ground feeders or plant native plants that fruit.

Fun fact: The gold crown of Golden-crowned Sparrows shows how dominant they are, with larger crowns showing more dominance. This helps to reduce fights amongst males.

19. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are spotted all year in northern California but are more common during winter in the south of the state. They are recorded in 11% of summer checklists and 22% of winter checklists.

Northern Flickers are large brown woodpeckers with black spots and a white patch on their rump in flight, plus a red nape of the neck in the males. 

Northern Flickers have red or yellow flashes in the wings and tail depending on where they originate. Red-shafted birds live in the west, and yellow-shafted birds live in the east.

  • Colaptes auratus
  • Length: 11.0-12.2 in (28-31 cm)
  • Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz (110-160 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in (42-51 cm)

Northern Flickers can be spotted across the US all year and in Canada during summer. Those that breed in Canada migrate south for the winter.

Northern Flickers mainly eat ants, beetles, fruits, and seeds, and they can often be seen on the ground digging with their curved bill.

Northern flicker Call:

Credit: Thomas Ryder Payne, XC636252. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/636252.

Attract Northern Flickers to your backyard with suet.

Some woodpeckers are more easily recognized than others, but with this guide, you can identify all the woodpeckers in California.

20. Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbird for identification

Northern Mockingbirds are spotted all year in California. They occur in 22% of summer checklists and 19% of winter checklists for the state.

Northern Mockingbirds are medium-sized songbirds with small heads and long tails. They are a gray-brown color and slightly paler on the underside than their back, and they have two white wingbars visible in flight.

  • Mimus polyglottos
  • Length: 8.3-10.2 in (21-26 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.0 oz (45-58 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-13.8 in (31-35 cm)

Northern Mockingbirds do not migrate and can be spotted across the lower 48 and southern Canada.

They are usually seen alone or in pairs and aggressively defend their territory. A male mockingbird can learn around 200 songs in its life, copying other birds’ songs, and they can sing all through the day and into the night.

Northern Mockingbird Call/Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC654864. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/654864.

Attract more Northern Mockingbirds to your backyard by planting fruiting trees or bushes, including hawthorns, mulberries, and blackberry brambles. They don’t often visit feeders, but they will come to open lawn areas.

21. Barn Swallow

barn swallow

Barn Swallows are mostly spotted in California during the breeding season and occur in 19% of checklists at this time. They are usually seen in the state from March to October.

Barn Swallows are small birds with a deep-blue back, wings and tail, and reddish-brown underneath and across the face. Their tail has long outer feathers that give a deep fork. The dark color of their back can make them look black-and-white.

  • Hirundo rustica
  • Length: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz (17-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.4-12.6 in (29-32 cm)

Barn Swallows breed in Canada and the US  before heading to Central and South America. They can be found flying over meadows, farms, and fields looking for insects and usually build mud nests on man-made structures such as in barns.

Barn Swallow Song:

Attract Barn Swallows by putting up nest boxes or cups, and they may eat ground-up eggshells on a platform feeder.

22. Steller’s Jay

stellars jay

Steller’s Jays are residents of California all year. However, they are spotted more during the breeding season and appear in 16% of summer checklists and 7% of winter checklists.

Steller’s Jays are large songbirds with black triangular crests that stick up from their heads. The rest of their heads and onto their chests and back are black, with the rest of their bodies being blue.

  • Cyanocitta stelleri
  • Length: 11.8-13.4 in (30-34 cm)
  • Weight: 3.5-4.9 oz (100-140 g)
  • Wingspan: 17.3 in (44 cm)

Steller’s Jays are resident in western US states, western Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

You can find Steller’s Jays in evergreen forests in the mountains, and they will also be found around picnic tables, campgrounds, and backyard feeders.

Steller’s Jays eat most things they can forage for, including insects, seeds, nuts, berries, eggs, and nestlings, but also make a nuisance of themselves around garbage and your unguarded picnic!

Steller’s Jay sounds: They make ‘kaw’ sounds as well as fast two-toned calls, peeps, and harsh guttural sounds. Steller’s Jays can also mimic other noises such as other bird species and even sprinklers and alarms.

Paul Marvin, XC636598. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/636598.

Attract Steller’s Jays to your backyard with peanuts and suet.

23. Red-winged Blackbird

Red winged blackbird for identification

Red-winged blackbirds can be seen all year in California. They appear in 18% of summer checklists and 14% of winter checklists for the state.

Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the reddish-orange wing patches. Females are rather dull in comparison with streaky brown color.

  • Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Length: 6.7-9.1 in (17-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz (32-77 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

Red-winged Blackbirds remain all year in the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. Those that breed in Canada and some northern US states migrate south for the winter.

They can often be spotted sitting on telephone wires, and the males will fiercely defend their territories in the breeding season, even attacking people that get too close to their nests. In winter, they roost in large numbers into the millions.

Red-winged Blackbird Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC629168. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/629168.

Red-winged Blackbird Calls:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC669258. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/669258.

Attract Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard with mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground. They will also feed from large tube feeders or platform feeders.

Blackbirds are a vast family of birds that have numerous family members, and why don’t you get to know all the blackbirds in California?

24. Western Bluebird

eastern-kingbird

Western Bluebirds are spotted all year in California. They are recorded in 14% of both summer and winter checklists for the state.

Eastern Kingbirds are medium-sized, large-headed flycatchers that are grayish-black on the back and white underneath. Their heads are darker black, and they have a white tip on the tail.

They have a concealed crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers, which they raise when defending themselves or their nest.

  • Tyrannus tyrannus
  • Length: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.9 oz (33-55 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0-15.0 in (33-38 cm)

Eastern Kingbirds get their name ‘king’ from the aggression they show each other and other birds when defending their nests.

Eastern Kingbirds breed in most of the US except southwestern US states before heading south into Central and South America for winter. 

You can find Eastern Kingbirds in fields, orchards, and along forest edges.  They can often be found nesting near water such as rivers or lakes. They catch insects in midair and will often perch up above fields waiting for insects to fly past. 

Eastern Kingbirds call:

Ken Hall, XC509628. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/509628.

Attract Eastern Kingbirds to your backyard with berry bushes and vegetation to attract insects.

25. Say’s Phoebe

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebes are more common in California during winter, but some stay all year in the south of the state. They appear in 3% of summer checklists and 15% of winter checklists.

Say’s Phoebes are slender, long-tailed flycatchers that are brownish-gray above and with a cinnamon belly, gray breast, and blackish tail.

  • Sayornis saya
  • Length: 6.7 in (17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-0.8 oz (21-22 g)

Say’s Phoebes breed in Alaska, northwestern Canada, and the northern U.S before migrating south to southwestern states and Mexico.  Those in southern states remain all year.

You can find Say’s Phoebes in open country, including badlands, canyons, and desert borders.

Say’s Phoebe’s are flycatchers, and their diet is mostly insects such as beetles, crickets, bees, and flies. They often nest on buildings and can be seen perched on fence posts and around buildings or in their nests under an eave.

Say’s Phoebes’ song:

Paul Marvin, XC719936. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/719936.

Attract Say’s Phoebes to your yard by putting up a nest box or a shelf attached to a building to encourage nesting and plant native trees and shrubs.

26. Chestnut-backed Chickadee

chestnut-backed-chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are residents of California all year and are mainly spotted along the coast. They do not migrate and appear in 13% of summer checklists and 11% of winter checklists.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are tiny birds with black caps and throats and white cheeks. They are a rich chestnut on their backs and sides and have gray wings and bellies. In California, their sides are gray instead of brown.

  • Poecile rufescens
  • Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5 in (19 cm)

Chestnut-backed Chickadees live flocks in wet evergreen forests along the Pacific Coast and are regular visitors to backyard feeders.

You can find Chestnut-backed Chickadees usually in conifer forests. They eat mostly insects, including caterpillars, spiders, wasps, and aphids, with seeds, berries, and fruit making up the rest.

Credit: Simon Elliott, XC597659. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/597659.

Attract Chestnut-backed Chickadees to your yard with black-oil sunflower seeds, suet, nyjer, peanuts, or mealworms in tube feeders, platform feeders, or suet cages. They will also use nest boxes.

27. House Sparrow

House sparrow for identification

House Sparrows are an introduced species in California that can be spotted here all year. They do not migrate and occur in 17% of summer checklists and 13% of winter checklists for the state.

The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They have gray and brown heads and white cheeks. Their backs are black and brown, and their bellies are gray.

  • Passer domesticus
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (27-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)

House Sparrows live in the US and Southern Canada all year.

You can find them near houses and buildings, and they can be pretty tame, and they may even eat out of your hand.

House Sparrows eat mostly grain and seed as well as discarded food. They can be considered a pest because they are non-native, but they are found in backyards even if you do not feed them.

House Sparrow Song:

Credit: Olivier SWIFT, XC697951. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/697951.

Attract House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.

28. Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian collared dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves are spotted all year in California. They do not migrate and occur in 15% of summer checklists and 11% of winter checklists for the state.

Eurasian-collard Doves are light brownish-gray, with white patches in the tail, and look very similar to Mourning Doves, but with a black half collar at the nape of the neck. They are also larger and with a square tail rather than pointed.

  • Streptopelia decaocto
  • Length: 11.4-11.8 in (29-30 cm)
  • Weight: 4.9-6.3 oz (140-180 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.8 in (35 cm)

Eurasian Collared-Doves are an introduced species that only arrived in the 1980s but now live across most of the United States.

You can find Eurasian Collared-Doves in most areas, including rural and suburban and they eat a wide variety of seeds and grain but also eat some berries and insects.

Eurasian Collared-Dove song:

Manuel Grosselet, XC722058. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/722058.

29. Orange-crowned Warbler

orange-crowned-warbler

Orange-crowned Warblers are spotted during the breeding season in northern California, and their numbers increase during migration.

However, some stay in the winter. They are recorded in 11% of summer checklists, 8% of winter checklists, and up to 23% of checklists during migration.

Orange-crowned Warblers are not as brightly colored as other warblers with their yellow-olive coloring. They are more yellow on the Pacific Coast, and the orange crown is rarely seen.

  • Leiothlypis celata
  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5 in (19 cm)

Orange-crowned Warblers breed in Canada and western US states before migrating to the Pacific, East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Mexico. However, Orange-crowned Warblers can also be seen during migration across all states.

You can find Orange-crowned Warblers in shrubs and low vegetation, and they breed in open woodland.

Orange-crowned Warblers eat mainly insects, spiders, caterpillars, and flies. However, they will also eat fruit, berries, and seeds and regularly visit backyard feeders.

Orange-crowned Warbler Song:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC671865. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/671865.

Attract more Orange-crowned Warblers to your yard with suet and peanut butter or hummingbird feeders with sugar water nectar.

30. Common Yellowthroat

common yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats can be spotted all year in California, but they are more common during migration from April to June and again from September to December. They appear in 11% of summer checklists and 8% of winter checklists for the state.

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails. The males have black masks across their faces. The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically, and they may be more olive in parts underneath.

  • Geothlypis trichas
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (9-10 g)
  • Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)

Common Yellowthroats spend the summer breeding over most of North America, except Alaska and northern Canada. Some remain all year along the Gulf Coast and Pacific Southwest. Then, they migrate south for winter.

You can find Common Yellowthroats often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation. 

Common Yellowthroat Song:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC629250. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/629250.

Attract Common Yellowthroats to large backyards with dense vegetation and native plants to attract insects.

31. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allens hummingbird male

Allen’s Hummingbirds are mainly seen along the coast of California during summer from February to July. However, some hang around all year. They appear in 12% of summer checklists and 9% of winter checklists.

Allen’s Hummingbirds are only found in a narrow band of coastal forest and scrub they inhabit between California and Oregon. 

Male Allen’s Hummingbirds have iridescent reddish-orange throats and orange bellies, tails, and eye patches.  Both males and females have long straight bills and coppery-green backs, but the females lack the bright throat coloring.

  • Length: 3.5 in (9 cm)
  • Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (2-4 g)
  • Wingspan: 4.3 in (11 cm)

Allen’s Hummingbirds look very similar to Rufous Hummingbirds, so it’s hard to tell them apart. The difference between them is the narrow outer tail feathers in Allen’s Hummingbird females and immature males and the solid green backs of the males (but to make it harder, Rufous Hummingbirds can also have this!). They build nests at no fixed height near shady streams and have up to 3 broods a year.

Allen’s Hummingbirds spend winter in Mexico and migrate as early as January up to the Pacific Coast in California and Oregon. Some remain residents in central Mexico and around Los Angeles throughout winter.

32. White-breasted Nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch for identification

White-breasted Nuthatches do not migrate and are residents of California all year. They are recorded in around 9% of summer and winter checklists for the state.

White-breasted Nuthatches are active little birds that are gray-blue on the back and white on the face and belly, with a black cap. They will often have a chestnut color on the lower belly and under the tail.

  • Sitta carolinensis
  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in (20-27 cm)

White-breasted Nuthatches live all year in the US and southern Canada.

You can find White-breasted Nuthatches in deciduous forests, woodland edges, parks, and yards with trees or at feeders. They mainly eat insects, including beetles and their larvae, caterpillars, ants, and also spiders.

White-breasted Nuthatches also eat seeds and nuts, including acorns, hawthorns, sunflower seeds, and sometimes corn crops. They jam large nuts and acorns into tree bark and then whack them with their bills to open or ‘hatch’ them to get the seed out.

White-breasted Nutcracker Call:

Credit: Russ Wigh, XC560678. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/560678.

Attract White-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts on tube feeders or suet feeders.

33. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch for identification

American Goldfinches can be spotted in California all year, but their numbers increase during migration in April and November. They appear in around 9% of summer and winter checklists and up to 11% of checklists during migration.

American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males’ bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are duller brown, as are males in winter.

  • Spinus tristis
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

American Goldfinches can be found in most of North America and are usually resident all year. However, those that breed in Canada and the Midwest migrate to southern US States for winter.

They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.

American Goldfinch Song:

Attract American Goldfinches to your backyard by planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed. 

There are a surprising number of finches in California that you can get to know.

Common Birds In California in Different Seasons

The birds listed above are the backyard birds most often seen in California that may visit your lawn or feeders.  They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists on ebird, and the data is a combination of birds most frequently spotted in California in summer (June and July), winter (December and January), and throughout the year.

Birds that are not often seen at feeders or in backyards were removed to give you the birds in California you are most likely to see from home. This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are backyard birding in California, these are the birds you will most likely spot at feeders or on your lawn.

The birds that are attracted to backyards in California change throughout the year.  The lists below show the backyard birds that are most commonly seen at different times of the year in California.

Notable differences show that Mourning Doves and Lesser Goldfinch are more common birds in summer in California, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black Phoebes, and Ruby-crowned Phoebe’s are more common birds in winter in California.

Common birds in California all year

House Finch 44%
Black Phoebe 42%
Anna’s Hummingbird 39%
American Crow 36%
Mourning Dove 34%
California Scrub-Jay 33%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 31%
White-crowned Sparrow 31%
California Towhee 29%
Song Sparrow 27%

Summer birds California

House Finch 44%
Mourning Dove 40%
Black Phoebe 32%
Anna’s Hummingbird 32%
American Crow 31%
California Scrub-Jay 29%
California Towhee 29%
Lesser Goldfinch 28%
Song Sparrow 27%
Spotted Towhee 25%

Winter birds California

Yellow-rumped Warbler 51%
Black Phoebe 48%
White-crowned Sparrow 46%
House Finch 40%
Anna’s Hummingbird 39%
American Crow 37%
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 32%
California Scrub-Jay 31%
California Towhee 27%
Mourning Dove 26%

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in California

A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds

  1.  Tube Feeders can be filled with different types of birdseed, and depending on the seed, different birds will be attracted. Black oil sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.
  2. Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
  3. Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
  4. Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
  5. Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
  6. Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny, fascinating birds, but they also attract other birds too.

How to Attract Birds to Your Yard in California

If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in California, there are some tips:

  1. Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
  2. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
  3.  Grow native plants that will provide food and shelter. Plants, trees, and shrubs provide fruit, berries, and nuts. Blackberries, wild grasses, elderberries, serviceberries, Oaks, Beeches, Cherries, sumacs, hemlocks, Purple Coneflowers, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Cardinal Flowers, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, Buttonbush, and Dogwoods.
  4. Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
  5. Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
  6. Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds and prevent the natural foraging opportunities for insects and seeds that birds will seek in your yard.
  7. Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.

How to Identify Birds in California

Here are some tips to help you identify birds:

  1. Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird.  Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books.  It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon, and a large bird is the size of a goose.
  2. Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline.  Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
  3. Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
  4. Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own?  Can you spot what they are eating?
  5. Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
  6. Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon

Birds to Spot if Out Birding in California

If you go out Birding in California, these are other birds that you may be able to spot.

  1. Red-tailed Hawk
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Sandhill Crane
  5. White-faced Ibis
  6. Rough-legged Hawk
  7. Double-crested Cormorant
  8. Great Egret
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Osprey
  11. Golden Eagle
  12. Canada Goose
  13. Killdeer
  14. Snowy Egret
  15. Red-shouldered Hawk
  16. Pied-billed Grebe
  17. California Gull
  18. Orange-crowned Warbler
  19. American Kestrel
  20. California Quail
  21. Western Tanager
  22. Brown Pelican
  23. Bufflehead
  24. Northern shoveler
  25. Cooper’s Hawk
  26. Belted Kingfisher
  27. Northern Harrier
  28. Western Grebe
  29. Black-necked Stilt
  30. Cedar Waxwing