california backyard birds

Birds of California: Top 15 with Pictures

There are 676 species of birds in the Golden State, as mentioned by the CBRC (California Bird Records Committee) in the state’s official list of birds as of 7th July in 2021.

If you live in California and you’re curious about the types of birds you can come across in your yard, then you’ve come to the right place!

In today’s article, we’re sharing interesting facts and easy descriptions of the most common 15 California backyard birds to help you better attract and identify them. Let’s dive in!

Where do we get our data from? In order to give you the most popular and rarest birds in California, we’ve used a variety of data sources including the North American Breeding Bird Survey which has been collecting data on birds of each state since 1966.

Below you will find the most popular birds in California, in 2021 there were a total of 288 species counted including both migrant and non breeder birds. In total there were 50,900 sightings of birds throughout California in 2021.

1. Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler perched in a tree

Scientifically known as Setophaga coronata, the Yellow-rumped Warbler has a length of 4.7 to 5.5 inches, a wingspan of 7.5 to 9.1 inches, and weighs no more than 0.5 ounces.

These birds are characterized by having patches of canary yellow color across their grey bodies. The pattern of these patches, however, can differ according to the bird’s location but the yellow is usually covering their faces, sides, and rump.

Interestingly, Yellow-rumped Warblers don’t stay vibrant all year round. Their colors typically go paler in winter creating a duller brown plumage.

In the northern half of California, these birds are both year-round residents and visitors during spring and summer breeding seasons. In the southern half, Yellow-rumped Warblers are commonly seen during the cold months.

To attract Yellow-rumped Warblers, set up bird feeders with sunflower seeds, suet, peanut butter, and raisins.

2. Anna’s Hummingbird

annas hummingbird

Also referred to as Calypte anna, Anna’s Hummingbird measures 3.4 to 4.0 inches long, weighs around 0.1 to 0.2 ounces, and has a wingspan of 4.5 to 4.8 inches.

This petite bird is one of the most widespread hummingbirds in California. It resides year-round throughout most of the Golden State, particularly the southern coastal regions.

Author Note: You can easily identify Anna’s Hummingbirds thanks to their shimmering green bodies and iridescent pink faces. Females, however, don’t have the bold pink plumage but may feature pinkish-red spotting on the throat.

Despite being mainly drawn to the wilderness, these birds can still visit gardens and backyards in search of flowers containing nectar. As such, you can attract Anna’s Hummingbirds by providing nectar feeders or growing nectar-producing plants.

3. Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

The scientific name of the Northern Mockingbird is Mimus polyglottos. It gets its name due to its remarkable ability to imitate the songs of other bird species. In fact, an individual mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs during its lifespan.

These medium-sized birds measure 8.3 to 10.2 inches long, have a wingspan of 12.2 to 13.8 inches, and weigh around 1.6 to 2.0 ounces. Their bodies are mostly grey and white, but you may have a better chance of recognizing them by their long tail feathers.

Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents of California, but may only drop by the northwestern border during the spring and summer seasons. They’re quite common to spot in backyards, but they don’t typically come for bird feeders.

You can better attract them by planting fruit-bearing bushes or putting out a birdbath.

4. House Finch

House Finch

Also called Haemorhous mexicanus, the House Finch is an invasive bird species that weighs less than an ounce, measures between 4.9 and 6.1 inches long, and has a wingspan of 8.1 to 10.5 inches.

It’s likely for House Finches to visit your backyard in large flocks and possibly hoard the feeders in the process. Males of the species are easier to identify because of the reddish-orange color that covers their heads and breasts. Females, on the other hand, are mostly brown shades.

If you’re looking to attract more House Finches to your backyard, try putting out tube or platform feeders loaded with nyjer seeds or black sunflower seeds.

5. Mourning Dove

mourning dove on a railing

The Mourning Dove, known as Zenaida macroura if you want to get scientific, measures between 9.1 and 13.4 inches long and has a wingspan around 17.5 inches. Its weight ranges from 3.0 to 6.0 ounces depending on the sex.

These birds have grey and light brown plumage accompanied by black spots across their wings. Their underside is a pale peach color and they possess pitch-black eyes surrounded by a distinct cyan-colored ring.

You can usually see Mourning Doves perched on fences, trees, or wires. They like to eat at ground level but may occasionally visit your tray feeder if it’s loaded with black sunflower seeds.

6. American Crow

two crows in a tree

Also called Corvus brachyrhynchos in the scientific community, the length of an American Crow falls around 15.8 to 20.9 inches and its wingspan ranges from 33.5 to 39.4 inches.

Weighing in at11.2 to 21.9 ounces, this dark bird is all-black from beak to claw. It’s relatively large compared to other California backyard birds and gives a characteristic cawing call that many people are familiar with.

American Crows are very intelligent and like to remain perched on high treetops to keep a wide view of their surroundings. They’re omnivorous birds, but you can still lure them by offering peanuts.

You should, however, be aware that American Crows can be a nuisance as they’re attracted to trash or pet food sitting outside.

7. California Scrub-Jay

california scrub jay in a tree

The California Scrub-Jay, scientifically referred to as Aphelocoma californica, is a native bird species to Western North America. This is why it’s known as Western Scrub-Jay in states other than California.

It measures about 11.0 to 11.8 inches, weighs around 2.5 to 3.5 ounces, and has a wingspan of 15.0 to 15.5 inches. It possesses a vibrant blue color on its head, back, wings, and tail.

Author Note: The California Scrub-Jay is one of the most common blue-colored birds you can find in the state, and you can tell them apart from other blue species by their rather long tails and small beaks.

Year-round residents of the Golden State, you can readily spot these birds across coastal, northern, and central California. To attract California Scrub-Jays, plant fruit-bearing trees in the warm months and acorn-producing trees (oak) in the cooler months.

You can also put out bird feeders containing peanuts and sunflower seeds.

8. White-crowned Sparrow

white crowned sparrow perched

The White-crowned Sparrow, also called Zonotrichia leucophrys, measures around 6 inches long and has a wingspan of 8.3 to 9.4 inches. It weighs no more than an ounce and migrates from Canada and Alaska down to the United States during the cold months.

You can identify this sparrow by noticing the bold black and white stripes on its head, whereas the rest of its face, breast, and belly is a pale brownish-grey. White-crowned Sparrows prefer to stay at ground level and pick up seeds, but will occasionally visit bird feeders.

Although these birds are winter inhabitants throughout most of California, they can be year-round residents along the coast. To attract White-crowned Sparrows, scatter sunflower seeds and millet on the ground.

9. Red-winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird, also known as Agelaius phoeniceus, is one of the most widespread and easiest to recognize backyard birds thanks to its all-black plumage except for a bright red and yellow patch sitting on each shoulder.

The females, on the other side, are dull when compared to males sporting shades of brown feathers. Besides being brighter, the males are also very territorial and will fiercely protect their homes even if it means attacking people who get too close to their nests — particularly during the breeding season.

To encourage more Red-winged Blackbirds to visit your backyard, scatter mixed seeds and grain on the ground or put out tube feeders or platform feeders.

10. American Robin

american robin in a cherry tree

American Robins, also referred to as Turdus migratorius, have a length ranging between 9.0 to 11.0 inches and a wingspan of 14.7 to 16.5 inches. Weighing in and less than 3 pounds, these birds are common visitors to backyards and lawns in California.

Their underside shows a rusty orange breast color while their heads and backs are a contrasting black color. They also possess yellow beaks that stand out against the dark plumage.

American Robins love to eat mealworms and they also like fruiting plants, but never prefer seeds. You can lure them to your yard by scattering food on the ground or putting out platform feeders.

11. European Starling

european starling on the ground

The European Starling -otherwise called Sturnus vulgaris- and is one of the prominent examples of an invasive bird species. Often considered a pest, it extends 7.9 to 9.1 inches long, has a wingspan ranging between 12.2 and 15.8 inches, and weighs in at 2.1 to 3.4 ounces.

European Starlings were first released back in the 1890s in New York. Their generally aggressive behavior doesn’t dismiss the stunning appearance of these birds with an all-dark plumage that shines under sunlight showing purple, green, and blue hues.

Author Note: European Starlings also feature long yellow bills and legs, as well as white specks across their wings and backs. These birds enjoy all sorts of feeders and like to munch on black sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and cracked corn.

However, you don’t have to offer any specific food to attract them to your backyard as they’ll invite themselves anyway.

12. California Towhee

california towhee

The California Towhee also goes by Melozone crissalis and measures 8.3 to 9.8 inches long, weighs 1.3 to 2.4 ounces, and has a wingspan of about 11.4 inches. It’s another very common California backyard bird.

These birds are brown and plump sparrows with short wings, long tails, and a rusty orange patch under the tail. They commonly visit backyards, like to perch on fence posts, and often chase their reflections in windows or car mirrors.

California Towhees enjoy eating seeds and berries. To attract more of them to your yard, try growing native berry-producing plants and millet on the ground feeders.

13. Lesser Goldfinch

perched lesser goldfinch

Scientifically called Spinus psaltria, the Lesser Goldfinch is the most widespread finch in the Golden State. Its length ranges between 3.5 to 4.3 inches and its wingspan falls around 5.9 to 7.9 inches.

Weighing in at less than 0.5 ounces, these tiny birds have bright yellow and black plumage with short notched tails and long pointed wings. Females are paler with olive backs and dull yellow bellies.

The Lesser Goldfinch is a year-round resident across most of California, but may only be seen in the northeastern corner during spring and summer seasons. To attract this bird to your backyard, provide sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds on platform feeders or tube feeders.

14. Song Sparrow

song sparrow singing

Another common California backyard bird is the Song Sparrow. Otherwise referred to as Melospiza melodia, the Song Sparrow features a light and dark brown plumage. Its length ranges between 4.7 to 6.7 inches and weighs no more than 2 ounces with a wingspan of 7.1 to 9.4 inches.

Author Note: Male Song Sparrows use special songs to attract females and protect their territories. These birds enjoy munching on mixed seeds.

If you’re looking to attract more Song Sparrows to your backyard, put out black sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and cracked corn on platform feeders.

15. Northern Flicker

Last but not least, we have the Northern Flicker, which is scientifically known as Colaptes auratus. It measures 11.0 to 12.2 inches long and weighs around 3.9 to 5.6 ounces with a wingspan of 16.5 to 20.1 inches.

These large woodpeckers are brownish with black spots all over their bodies except for the head. The underside of their tails and wings are red in western varieties -including those in California- and bright yellow in eastern varieties.

Additionally, males possess a red mustache-like patch that females lack. To attract more Northern Flickers to your backyard, you can try suet feeders or seed feeders.

Wrap Up

There you have it,15 of the most common California backyard birds. The descriptions and information we discussed today will help you attract and identify many of the birds that are likely to drop by your property.

All you need to do is follow our tips and keep watching!


What birds are really Californian?

Well, the following birds have California in their names so that’s a good place to start. Each one has a link to its eBird page if you want to learn more.
California Scrub-Jay
California Towhee
California Quail
California Thrasher
California Gull
California Gnatcatcher
California Condor

What is the smallest bird in California?

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest of its family in the U.S. and the smallest of all species in California. It measure 3 inches long and weighs in at 1/10 of an ounce.

What California bird looks like a penguin?

The Common Murre looks a bit like a penguin in its stance and coloring. But remember, there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere.

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