25 Exciting Backyard Birds of California to spot

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Backyard Birds of California

California is known for its diverse landscape, which extends to the variety of birds found in the state. There is no shortage of bird species in California, from the Pacific Coast to the Sierra Nevada mountains. Some of California’s most common backyard birds are not found anywhere else in the country.

Why is California such a great place for birds? The state has a wide variety of habitats, from coastal areas and wetlands to forests and deserts. And because California is such a large state, there are habitats located in every climate zone.

This habitat diversity means there is a place for every type of bird, from small songbirds to large raptors.

This blog post will look at California’s 25 most common backyard birds by surveying residents and utilizing data from ebird and other citizen science databases. By reading this article, we hope you will identify some new species and find out which ones live near you at any time of the year.

Backyard Birds Of California

According to the latest data from ebird, there are 699 observed species of Birds in California. This data comes from over 4.5 million checklists from over 78,000 avid birdwatchers. Identifying and seeing all 699 species is a daunting challenge, so we have chosen to focus on the birds you are more likely to see in your home, backyard, or bird feeders.

Here are some things to know about Backyard Birds of California:

  • 699 observed species
  • The House Finch is the most common backyard bird species in California.
  • The House Finch is the most common feeder bird of California.
  • The Allen’s Hummingbird is the smallest most common feeder bird in California.
  • The American Crow is the largest backyard bird in the top 25 list.
  • The Nuttall’s Woodpecker is the most common woodpecker of California
  • The California Quail is the state bird of California.

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds Of California?

  1. House Finch
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird
  3. White-crowned Sparrow
  4. Lesser Goldfinch
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Dark-eyed Junco
  7. California Scrub-Jay
  8. California Towhee
  9. Pine Siskin
  10. Oak Titmouse
  11. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  12. Bewick’s Wren
  13. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  14. Black Phoebe
  15. American Crow
  16. American Goldfinch
  17. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  18. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  19. Spotted Towhee
  20. Bushtit
  21. House Sparrow
  22. Cooper’s Hawk
  23. Northern Mockingbird
  24. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  25. Allen’s Hummingbird

Top 5 Hotspots For Birdwatching In California

If you prefer to venture away from home to do birding, visit one of California’s best hotspots for birdwatching. These hotspots are determined by the number of species observed by fellow birdwatchers in California.

  1. Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
  2. Andrew Molera State park
  3. Furnace Creek Ranch
  4. IRWD San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
  5. Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Top 25 Backyard Birds Of California

The list below is determined by the number of bird watchers in California who have seen a species visiting their feeder at least once, divided by the number of bird feeder sites in the state.

1. House Finch

The House Finch is a small bird found in most of North America, including parts of the United States and Southern Canada and is a year-round resident of California backyards.

House Finches are 12-15cm (5.1-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 16-27g (0.6-0.9oz).

They have short wings that allow for a quick flight, and their beaks are stubby and slightly curved on top with a long flat head. The males are known for their bright red heads and breast with brown wings, tails, and back.

Their preferred habitat is open, grassy areas with some trees – often near farmlands. They will also be found around towns and suburbs to find food quickly on the ground, such as birdseed spilled from backyard bird feeders (or even at pet food bowls left out for our furry friends).

They are ground forages whose preferred diet consists mainly of seeds, buds, and fruit. They are common at backyard bird feeders and will often feed in large numbers, especially when black oil sunflowers seeds are present in your feeders.

The House Finch has been seen at 90% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer

2. Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird is a common species of bird found in the far western region of the United States and Canada (British Columbia). These tiny birds can be seen in California all year round.

They are about 10cm (4 inches) long and weigh between 3-6g (0.1-0.2oz). They are stockier than most hummingbirds and have a short, straight bill and broad tail.

Anna’s hummingbirds are metallic green above and grayish-white and green below. Males have rose-red coloring around their heads and throat, while females have a white throat with green and red spots.

They can be found in woodlands near streams or rivers, coastal scrubs, city parks, and yards.

Anna’s Hummingbirds feed mainly on nectar from flowers but will also eat insects, such as spiders, when the opportunity presents itself.

Anna’s Hummingbirds are common in backyards with flower gardens or hummingbird feeders.

The Anna’s Hummingbird has been seen at 84% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Nectar Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Sugar Water

3. White-crowned Sparrow

The White-crowned Sparrow is a medium-large-sized sparrow found throughout North America and can be seen in California during the colder non-breeding months.

Males and Females are about 15-16cm (5.9-6.3 inches) long and weigh between 25-28g (0.9-1.0oz). They have relatively long tails and short pointed bills. Their bill can vary from pink to orange to yellow, depending on the subspecies and geographic location.

Their color is generally grayish-brown and has a distinctive bland and white striped crown.

They live in most open areas such as forest edges, scrublands, wetlands, marshes, farmlands, grasslands year-round in North America. They breed primarily in Canada during the summer and migrate south to the United States in winter.

White-crowned Sparrows eat mainly insects in the summer and seeds and berries the rest of the year.

They are common backyard birds that visit bird feeders if they offer cracked corn or millet. They prefer seeds scattered on the ground or a platform feeder.

The White-crowned Sparrow has been seen at 80% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracked Corn
  • Millet
  • Milo

4. Lesser Goldfinch

The Lesser Goldfinch is a common species of songbird found in the western half of North and Central America and is a year-round resident of California.

Both males and females are 9-11cm (3.5-4.3 inches) long and weigh between 8-11.5g (0.3-0.4oz). They have stubby bills, long pointed wings, and short tails.

Male Lesser goldfinches are bright yellow below, black or green above (depending on location), white patches on their wings, and white corners on a black tail. Female Lesser Goldfinches are dull olive above and pale yellow below.

Lesser Goldfinches live in various habitats but prefer areas with budding trees and bushes. They are also seen in weedy residential areas, often in large groups.

The Lesser goldfinches mainly eat seeds, tree buds, berries, and sometimes insects. They prefer composite plants such as thistle and purple coneflower.

Lesser goldfinches are very common in backyards, and will visit bird feeders that offer a variety of seeds.

The Lesser Goldfinch has been seen at 77% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Tube Feeder
  • Large and Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seed
  • Hulled Sunflower Seed
  • Nyjer

5. Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a common species of bird found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of California.

They are about the size of an American Robin, with adults between 23-34cm (9.1-13.4 inches) long and weighing between 86-170g (3-6oz). Mourning Doves have grayish-brown feathers, and their heads are pale gray; however, they lack crests or head adornments.

Mourning Doves prefer open habitats in rural and urban areas and weedy fields.

Mourning Doves are ground foragers meaning that they eat seeds, grains, and other vegetation found on the ground. They have a varied diet but prefer to eat weed seeds such as dandelions or grasses in open fields rather than forest floors. Mourning doves also drink water from puddles created by rain which they find near trees and shrubs.

They are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders and typically eat seeds that have fallen on the ground or platform feeders.

The Mourning Dove has been seen at 75% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

6. Dark-eyed Junco

The Dark-Eyed Junco is a medium-sized sparrow found in the Northern Hemisphere from Alaska to Newfoundland. They can be seen in northern California all year round and in southern California during the colder non-breeding months.

Males and Females are about 14-16cm (5.5-6.3 inches) long and weigh between 18-30g (0.6-1.1oz). They have a round head, short conical bill, and long tail.

The Dark-Eyed Junco varies in color depending on what region you are in but are mainly dark gray or brown with a light/pale pink bill and white outer tail feathers that are noticeable in flight.

The three most common sub-types and colors are:

  • Slate-colored Junco – Alaska, and East of the Rocky Mountains
  • Oregon Junco – Northern Rockies and Farther West
  • Gray-headed Junco – Southern Rockies

They live in coniferous forests, woodlands, scrubland, and tundra across the United States and Canada. You are more likely to find them in open areas like backyards, fields, and parks in winter.

They are ground foragers and eat insects, seeds, and berries. They eat mostly insects in the spring and summer and seeds and berries in the fall and winter.

They are also expected at backyard bird feeders in the winter, especially ones that offer sunflower seeds, millet, or cracked corn.

The Dark-eyed Junco has been seen at 74% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

7. California Scrub-Jay

The California Scrub-Jay is a large songbird found along the west coast of America and Mexico, and can be seen in California all year round.

Males and females are about 28-30cm (11 to 11.81 inches) long and weigh around 70-1000g (2.5 to 3.5 oz). They have a large, slender body, long tail, and missing a crest.

California scrub-jays are blue overall with a white chest and belly. They have a grayish back, blue wings, black bill, legs and feet, and white eyebrows.

California scrub-jays can be found in open woodlands, chaparral, oak savannahs, suburban areas, and gardens. They prefer areas with dense vegetation for nesting but will also use open spaces if available.

California scrub-jays are omnivorous and eat a variety of insects, acorns, berries, bird eggs, nestlings, nuts, and seeds.

They have been known to visit bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, suet, or peanuts.

The California Scrub-Jay has been seen at 71% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground
  • Platform feeder
  • Suet Cage
  • Large Tube Feeder
  • Large Hopper

Feeder Food:

  • Suet
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Mealworms
  • Fruit
  • Millet and Milo

8. California Towhee

The California Towhee is a large songbird found in western North America and can be seen along the western half of California all year round.

Males and females are about 21-25cm (8.3-9.8 inches) long and weigh around 37-67g (1.3-2.4 oz). They have a long tail, short rounded wings, and a stout bill.

California Towhees are a medium brown overall, with a darker tail and rufous-brown undertail and bill area.

California Towhees can be found in open woodlands, chaparral, forests, gardens, and suburban areas. They typically don’t venture too far away from their nests.

California Towhees are omnivorous birds that primarily eat seeds and supplement with various insects and berries.

They are prevalent visitors of bird feeders offering sunflower seeds, cracked corn, or millet.

The California Towhee has been seen at 68% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracked Corn
  • Millet
  • Peanut Hearts

9. Pine Siskin

The Pine Siskin is widespread throughout North America and some parts of Canada and Mexico, and can be seen in California during the colder non-breeding months.

Both males and females are about 11-14cm (4.3-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 12-18g (0.4-0.6oz). Both males and females are brown, with dark streaking throughout their bodies. They are a small finch with a sharply pointed bill and a short notched tail.

They are slightly darker above and paler below with two whitish-yellow wing bars. A yellow wing stripe can be seen during flight but is more difficult to see when perched.

They prefer open coniferous forests where they can forage in trees, looking for seeds among needles of the branches. Pine siskins are social birds and often travel in a few hundred bird flocks. They are very active and can be seen hopping around on the ground or flying quickly from tree to tree.

Pine siskins eat seeds almost exclusively but will take insects or larvae when available if seeds are not readily accessible. They are also frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, or nyjer seeds.

The Pine Siskin has been seen at 59% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Tube Feeder
  • Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

10. Oak Titmouse

The Oak Titmouse is a small sparrow-like bird found in woodlands throughout the western United States and is a year-round resident of California.

Both males and females are about 11-14cm (4.3-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 12-18g (0.42-0.63 oz). They have a long tail, stubby bill, and small crest on their heads.

Both sexes are grayish brown above with a paler grayish color below.

Oak titmouse are a west coast species that prefer oak woodlands and residential areas such as backyards, parks, and gardens.

Oak titmice eat various insects, seeds, fruits, and nuts. They are visitors to backyard bird feeders offering sunflower seeds, peanuts, or other nuts.

The Oak Titmouse has been seen at 54% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Hopper
  • Large and Small Tube Feeder
  • Platform Feeder
  • Suet Cage

Feeder Food:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Mealworms
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Suet

11. Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are small songbirds found throughout North and Central America from Canada down to Panama. They can be seen in northern California during the summer breeding months, and in southern California during the colder non-breeding months.

They are about 12-14cm (4.7-5.5 inches) long, weigh between 12-13g (0.4-0.5oz) and have long wings that allow for quick travel in thick vegetation or high into the trees where they will find their nests on a thin branch close to the trunk of a tree. Their beaks are short, solid, and pointed at the end, which they use to catch insects.

They are light gray with flashes of white in their wings. They have a yellow patch under their chin and yellow sides. Females’ colors are duller than the males, and winter plumage for both is a pale brown.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler prefers coniferous and mixed woodland habitats that provide plenty of shrubs, underbrush, and leafy trees for protection. They can also be found in parks and residential areas in the fall and winter.

They are insectivores that will prey on many insects they can catch. They will also eat small fruits or berries from early fall to spring.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler has been seen at 53% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeders
  • Suet Cage
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Nectar Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Sugar Water
  • Fruit
  • Mealworms

12. Bewick’s Wren

The Bewick’s Wren is a medium-sized wren found primarily in the southwestern United States and Central America. The can be seen throughout most of California all year round, except for the desert areas of southeast California.

Both sexes are about 13cm (5.1 inches) long and weigh 8-12g (0.3-0.4oz). They have short rounded wings, a long tail cocked upward, and a long downward curving bill.

Their plumage varies depending on location but is primarily grayish-brown above (southwest) or brown (pacific coast) above. They are grayish-white below and have white eyebrows. Their tail has black barring and is tipped with white bars at the end.

They live primarily in bushy woodlands, coastal and desert scrub, thick brush in open woods, residential parks, and gardens.

Bewick’s Wrens eat mostly small insects and spiders it can glean from bark crevices, roots, and rocks. They will also occasionally eat seeds and fruit, especially during winter when insects are harder to find.

Bewick’s Wrens can be found year-round in backyards with some low vegetation or brush piles. They will often visit bird feeders that offer mealworms, hulled sunflower seeds, and suet nuggets.

The Bewick’s Wren has been seen at 51% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube Feeder
  • Suet Cage
  • Large and Small Hopper
  • Ground
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Mealworms

13. Golden-crowned Sparrow

The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a large sparrow found along North America and Mexico’s west coast. They can be seen in California during the colder non-breeding months.

Males and females are about 15-18cm (5.9 to 7 inches) long and weigh around 20-35g (0.6 to 01.25 oz). They have a small head, a long tail, and a short, stout bill.

Golden-crowned Sparrows have streaked brown above and gray below. Breeding adults have a gray face and a black cap with a bright yellow forecrown. Non-breeding or winter adults have a brownish face and cap, with a duller yellow forecrown.

Golden-crowned Sparrows can be found in open woodlands, chaparral, edge forests, and gardens. They prefer areas with dense vegetation for nesting but will also use open spaces if available.

Golden-crowned Sparrows are omnivorous and eat a variety of insects, berries, and seeds.

They have been known to visit bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, cracked corn, or thistle seed.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow has been seen at 50% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground
  • Platform feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Nyjer
  • Milllet and Milo
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cracked Corn
  • Peanut hearts

14. Black Phoebe

The Black Phoebe is a medium-sized flycatcher found near water sources throughout much of North and Central America. These flycatchers can be seen in the western half of California all year round.

Both males and females are about 15-18cm (6-7 inches) long and weigh around 18-21g (0.64-0.74 oz). They have a large, slightly crested head, long tail, and a straight thin bill.

Black Phoebe’s are matte black above with a white belly and silvery edges on their wings.

Black Phoebes are found near streams, lakes, ponds, and other water sources where they can hunt for insects.

Black Phoebes eat insects primarily but will also take some small fish or other invertebrates. They are known to catch insects in mid-air or from the ground.

They will also visit backyard bird baths or bird feeders that offer live food such as mealworms.

The Black Phoebe has been seen at 43% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Mealworms

15. American Crow

The American Crow is a large bird found throughout most of North America, except in some areas in the southern United States along the border with Mexico.

American Crows are large at about 40-53cm (115.8-21 inches) long and weigh between 316-620g (11.2-22oz). They are black all over, including their legs, feet, bill, and eyes.

They have a very distinct, short tail with broad wings that allow for a quick flight. They are known to be brilliant birds – able to use tools to obtain the food they otherwise couldn’t reach.

Their preferred habitat is open areas such as pastures with some trees – either deciduous or coniferous to roost at night when they sleep. They will often be found in urban areas where food is plentiful – for example, at dumpsters behind supermarkets or garbage bins.

They are omnivores and very opportunistic and will eat small mammals, insects, and amphibians but may also be found eating fruits or grain in the wintertime when other food sources are scarce. We have even personally seen crows stealing chicks from other nests and flying away to eat them.

Not your typical visitor to backyard bird feeders but may hang around yards that offer a compost heap, easy access to garbage, or pet food lying around.

The American Crow has been seen at 43% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil & Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

16. American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a common species of bird found throughout North America and is a resident of California backyards during the colder non-breeding months.

They are small songbirds 11-13cm (4.3-5.1 inches) long and weigh between 11-20g (0.4-0.70 oz), with males being slightly larger than females. 

Breeding adult males have a bright yellow color on their heads and rump with a black cap and black-tipped wings, making them easy to identify from other birds. Winter adult males are tan above and pale gray below with a yellow face and throat. 

Breeding adult females are olive-brown above and yellow below, and winter adult females are generally gray overall.

Their preferred habitat is overgrown, weedy fields, pastures, and well planted suburban areas and backyards.

They mainly eat seeds from wild sunflowers, composite flowers or thistles, and very few insects. 

American Goldfinches are frequent visitors of backyard bird feeders – making them easy to spot around the yard. They prefer hulled sunflower and nyjer seeds.

The American Goldfinch has been seen at 42% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

17. Chestnut-backed Chickadee

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a tiny bird found in North America, but almost exclusively along the west coast of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

Males and Females are about 10-12cm (3.9-4.7 inches) long and weigh between 7-12g (0.3-0.4oz). They are the smallest and shortest-tailed chickadee and have short rounded wings.

They have a black and white head with white cheeks and a brown-chestnut-colored back. Depending on the region, they can either have brown-chestnut (Northern California and up) or duller gray sides (Central and Southern California).

Chestnut-backed Chickadees live in coniferous forests, woodlands, scrubland, parks, and suburbs year-round on the Pacific coast. They eat primarily insects they can glean from foliage and often supplement their diet with seeds, fruit, and berries.

They are common backyard birds that will visit bird feeders, especially if the feeder offers sunflower seeds or suet during the winter months.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee has been seen at 42% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Tube Feeders
  • Large and Small Hoppers
  • Suet Cage
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Suet
  • Peanuts and Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

18. Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a small bird found throughout much of North America and can be seen in southern California and the west coast during the colder non-breeding months. They can also be seen in northeastern California during the summer and spring breeding months.

Males and females are about 9-11cm (3.5 to 4.4 inches) long and weigh around 5-10g (0.2 to 0.3oz). They have a small round body, a short tail, and a small head with a thin, straight bill.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are olive green, white around the eye, and have two white wing bars. The adult male has a ruby-red crown that is only visible when he is excited or singing.

Ruby-crowned kinglets can be found in forests up north into Canada and the Rocky Mountains to the west during the breeding season. In winters, they move to lower elevations in the southern US and Mexico, such as woodlands, gardens, parks, and backyards.

Ruby-crowned kinglets eat small insects such as spiders, mites, and bugs but will also eat some fruit during the winter months.

They have been known to visit bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds or suet. However, they prefer to eat insects, so a bird feeder with live mealworms would be more attractive.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has been seen at 42% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Suet Cage

Feeder Food:

  • Mealworms
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Sunflower seeds (Hulled)
  • Suet

19. Spotted Towhee

The Spotted Towhee is a large-sized sparrow that lives in the western half of North America and Mexico, and can be seen in the Northern half of California all year round.

Males and females are about 17-21cm (6.7-8.3 inches) long and weigh around 33-49g (1.2-1.7oz). They are a chunky sparrow with a thick conical bill, and a long rounded tail tipped with white.

Male Spotted Towhees are black above and white below, with a black hood and throat with white spots on their wings. Their sides are a rusty-orange color, and they have ruby red eyes. Females are similar in color but are a slate gray color above.

They live primarily in open areas close to native habitats such as forest edges, thickets, underbrush, or ravines with brushy vegetation for shelter. They also live around agricultural land and residential areas with trees or hedgerows where they can find food sources like insects and spiders.

Spotted towhees eat mostly insects all year round. They prefer to forage on the ground through leaf litter and amongst the thicket or undergrowth of bushes and shrubs. They will supplement their diet with berries, nuts, and seeds when insects aren’t available.

Spotted towhees will often visit backyards with some low vegetation, brush piles, and bird feeders that offer mealworms, sunflower seeds (hulled or shelled), cracked corn, and suet nuggets.

The Spotted Towhee has been seen at 41% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seed
  • Millet
  • Milo
  • Cracked Corn
  • Mealworms

20. Bushtit

The Bushtit is a tiny bird that lives in western areas in North America and can be seen in the western half of California all year round.

Males and females are about 7-8cm (2.8-3.1 inches) long and weigh around 4-6g (0.1-0.2oz). They are plump-looking birds with a long tail, large head, seemingly no neck, and a short, stout bill. Bushtits are dull gray above and slightly paler gray below.

They live in various habitats such as forests, woodlands, shrublands, woody areas near streams, and urban areas such as gardens and parks. You will usually always see flocks of bushtits moving together.

Bushtits eat primarily insects and spiders year-round. They glean insects from foliage and catch them mid-air as they fly off branches or pick them from leaves.

They can be found visiting bird feeders that offer mealworms, suet balls, sunflower hearts (hulled or shelled), and sometimes whole peanuts or peanut hearts.

The Bushtit has been seen at 40% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Large and Small Tube Feeder
  • Suet Cage

Feeder Food:

  • Sunflower Seeds (Black Oil and Hulled)
  • Mealworms
  • Peanuts (Hearts and Whole)
  • Suet

21. House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is a common species of bird found throughout the world and is a year-round resident of California backyards.

Males and Females are about 15-17cm (5.9-6.7 inches) long and generally weigh between 27-30g (0.9-1.1oz). They have gray color on their head and chest, black spots on the feathers around their eyes, and brownish tails; however, they also have distinctive white spots on their wings.

House Sparrows are prevalent backyard visitors that can be identified by the distinctive appearance of two white spots on each side of the wing. They typically live in cities and towns with large populations, although they will visit backyards if suet feeders or birdseed is available.

House Sparrows eat mainly weed seeds, grain, and insects during breeding time. They typically prefer sunflower hearts and suet, although they also eat thistle seed, safflower seeds, and fruit when available.

Sparrows are highly social birds living in large flocks outside of breeding season that can sometimes become aggressive towards other birds.

The House Sparrow has been seen at 38% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube Feeder
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet 
  • Milo

22. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of California.

Males are about 37-39cm (14.6-15.3 inches) long and weigh 220-410g (7.8-14.5oz). Females are about 42-45cm (16.5-17.7 inches) long and weigh 330-680g (11.6-24oz).

They have broad rounded wings, a long, rounded tail, and a large head. Adults are bluish-gray above, with rusty colored bars below and thick darker bands on their tails. Juveniles are brown above, with orange-colored highlights on the head and dark streaks below.

Cooper’s hawks are often found in riparian woodlands, suburbs, and parks where they can find plenty of prey.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a versatile predator that preys on small mammals such as squirrels and rats and small birds up to the size of a Blue Jay. They often hunt by perching on a branch and waiting for prey to pass by. When prey is spotted, they will swoop down, grasp it with their feet and kill using a sharp blow of the bill.

In suburban areas, they sometimes hunt birds at bird feeders or squirrels in backyards and small rodents such as mice and rats.

The Cooper’s Hawk has been seen at 36% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • N/A

Feeder Food:

  • Unsuspecting Doves, Jays and Robin-sized birds

23. Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is a common species of bird found in the United States, Mexico and some areas of Central America. They can be seen in California backyards all year round.

They are very similar to American Robins except for their size – with both sexes 21-26cm (8.3-10.2 inches) long and weighing between 45-58g (1.6-2oz). They have grayish-brown feathers with black spots on their wings and tails; however, they also have white bellies, making them recognizable.

Northern Mockingbirds are not migratory but instead stay in the same location year-round. They prefer dense shrubby areas with open patches nearby, descriptive of most backyards.

Northern Mockingbirds build open-cup nests found high in trees or bushes – making them easy to see. They are primarily carnivorous, feeding mainly on insects during the summer months and switching to berries or fruit in autumn and winter.

They are a frequent visitor to backyards and will typically visit suet feeders.

The Northern Mockingbird has been seen at 36% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Mealworms

24. Nuttall’s Woodpecker

The Nuttall’s Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in western North America and is a year-round resident of western California.

Males and Females are about 16-18cm (6.3-7.1 inches) long and weigh around 35-45g (1.1-1.6 oz). They have a small, rounded, slightly crested head and a chisel-shaped bill.

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers have crisp black and white plumage. Their back is primarily black with thin white bars and a broad black bar at the base of the neck. They are white below with black spots on their sides and a black face with white stripes. The males have a red patch at the back of the crown, and the females have a black crown.

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers live in oak woodlands and forests but can also be seen in residential areas such as gardens and parks.

They are omnivores that eat insects primarily and supplements with acorns, seeds, and fruits.

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are not common at backyard bird feeders but may visit if suet, mealworms or other high-fat foods are offered.

The Nuttall’s Woodpecker has been seen at 35% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Suet
  • Mealworms

25. Allen’s Hummingbird

The Allen’s Hummingbird is a tiny hummingbird found in western North America and can be seen year-round along the Californian pacific coast.

Males and Females are about 9-10cm (3.5-4 inches) long and weigh 2-4g (0.1-0.2 oz). They are stocky-looking hummingbirds and have a long straight bill almost as long as their head.

They are orange and green overall. Males have an orange gorget, a coppery-orange eye patch, a tail, and a belly. Females are similar in color except they have a duller orange coloration and no orange gorget.

Allen’s Hummingbirds live in coastal forests, scrubs, chaparral, gardens, and parks on the west coast of the United States. They eat nectar primarily from plants but also supplement with insects.

Allen’s Hummingbirds are common at backyard bird feeders that offer sugar water or nectar. 

The Allen’s Hummingbird has been seen at 32% of all feeder sites in California.

Feeder Type:

  • Nectar Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Nectar
  • Sugar Water

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds All Year Round In California?

  • House Finch (46% frequency)
  • Black Phoebe (41% frequency)
  • Anna’s Hummingbird (40% frequency)
  • American Crow (38% frequency)
  • Mourning Dove (35% frequency)
  • California Scrub-Jay (33% frequency)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (31% frequency)
  • White-crowned Sparrow (31% frequency)
  • California Towhee (30% frequency)
  • Common Raven (28% frequency)

What Are The Most Common Winter Backyard Birds Of California?

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (48% frequency)
  • White-crowned Sparrow (44% frequency)
  • Black Phoebe (44% frequency)
  • House Finch (43% frequency)
  • Anna’s Himmingbird (41% frequency)
  • American Crow (39% frequency)
  • California Scrub-Jay (32% frequency)
  • Mourning Dove (31% frequency)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet (28% frequency)
  • California Towhee (28% frequency)

Birds To Spot Beyond The Backyard In California

If you decide to birdwatch away from your home, these are some of the other birds to look out for:

  1. California Quail
  2. European Starling
  3. Tree Swallow
  4. Red-winged Blackbird
  5. Brewer’s Blackbird
  6. Tricolored Blackbird
  7. Vaux’s Swift
  8. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  9. Brown-headed Cowbird
  10. Cliff Swallow
  11. Killdeer
  12. Violet-green Swallow
  13. Cedar Waxwing
  14. Swainson’s Hawk
  15. Great-tailed Grackle
  16. Wilson’s Warbler
  17. Red-crowned Parrot
  18. Western Meadowlark
  19. Evening Grosbeak
  20. Western Tanager
  21. Townsend’s Warbler
  22. Hermit Thrush
  23. Black Swift
  24. Lazuli Bunting
  25. Lesser Nighthawk
  26. Pygmy Nuthatch
  27. Black-headed Grosbeak
  28. Common Nighthawk
  29. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  30. Western Kingbird

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What birds of prey live in California?

California is home to many birds of prey species such as Falcons, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, and Vultures. The most common include the American Kestrel, White-tailed Kite, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, Barred Owl, Great-horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl, and the Turkey Vulture.

What type of birds live in California?

California is home to many types of birds that range in size from small Song Birds to larger Water Birds and Birds of Prey. The most common of which include the House Finch (46% frequency), Black Phoebe (41% frequency), Anna’s Hummingbird (40% frequency), Mallard Duck (27% frequency), Canada Goose (17% frequency), Red-tailed Hawk (26% frequency, Red-shouldered Hawk (13% frequency) and the Turkey Vulture (26% frequency).

How many species of birds are there in California?

There are 699 observed species of birds in California.

What Is The State Bird Of California?

The California Quail is the state bird of California.

What Is The Most Common Backyard Bird In California?

The House Finch is the most common backyard bird in California.

Keep an eye out for the backyard birds of California

The backyard birds of California are some of the most diverse and exciting in the country. With so many different species to choose from, there is sure to be a bird that will suit everyone’s taste. Whether you are looking for a small songbird or a large bird of prey, you will find it in California’s backyards.

If you want to venture beyond your backyard, visit one of California’s best hotspots for birdwatching. We would also love to hear about your favorite birdwatching spots or experiences in California.

If you have questions about identifying more species or finding out which ones live near you, let us know! We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start birdwatching today!

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Author
I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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