Top 26 Backyard Birds In California

California is a huge state and home to a wide variety of birds that you may see in your backyard. Some of these birds live in California all year round. While others only spend the winter or summer in the state and migrate to different states or places at other times of the year.

According to the California Records Committee, there have been 676 species of birds seen in California. As a result, in this article we will be going through the top 26 backyard birds that you will commonly see in your garden in  California. So, when you next see a bird in your backyard, you’ll know what species it is.

House Finch

Starting our list is the House Finch. Originally these birds were from the west coast and didn’t spread to the eastern side of the US until the 1940’s. They are normally found in small flocks and seen in California throughout the year. When they are in their flock they can be quite noisy to listen to. 

Male and female house finches do look slightly different to one another. These are quite small birds and what sets them apart is their coloring. Both the males and females are brown with white streaking across their bodies. Yet the males also have a red head and breast, alongside their brown feathers and white streaking. 

To attract House Finches in your backyard, they enjoy bird feeders. They love to eat either mixed seeds or black sunflower seeds. House Finches will also feed from thistle feeders too. Alongside your yard, you can see House Finches in parks, forest edges and farms.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves remain in California throughout the year; they might migrate after breeding but they are normally seen all year round.

You can see Mourning Doves sat perched on telephone wires, or you may see them grouped in trees. These birds forage for seeds on the ground. Not only can you find the Mourning Dove in your backyard but they can be found in most open areas, or on the very edge of any woodlands. 

Both the males and females look the same. These birds are only 9 to 13 inches long. They have small rounded heads with quite plumb bodies and a long tail.

Mourning Doves have a greyish/brownish coloring, with black spots on their wings. Their eyes are encircled by a ring of blue skin. Their silhouette is very distinctive of this bird. You just need to look out for their slim but long wings, small head and a long graduated tail. Their tails are what really set them apart. 

To attract Mourning Doves to your backyard, try scattering sunflower seeds, cracked corn or peanut hearts on the floor. You can put these in your feeders and some Mourning Doves do eat from a feeder. However, most of the time, you’ll see them eating from the floor.

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe is part of the flycatcher family. This is due to the fact that their diet consists of insects, like beetles, bees, spiders, grasshoppers and flies. Black Phoebes can be seen perched above and quite low to the ground, waiting for insects to come to them. 

This type of bird can be found all year round in the coastal areas of California. These birds are rare in central and eastern parts of the state. Black Phoebes are quite a small bird, both males and females are identical. They have a black head, wings and chest. Their stomachs are white. The top of their head looks peaked and they have a small thin black beak. 

These birds won’t visit your bird feeder, but if you have a water feature like a pond this may attract them. Or if you have plants that attract insects this can attract them to your backyard.

However if you want to see more Black Phoebes in your backyard, then you could sprinkle mealworms out for them. Although having native plants that will attract and support insects is the best way to attract more Black Phoebes to your yard.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird is one of the most common hummingbirds that you will see along the Western Coast. Most humming birds will migrate in the colder months and go south. However, Anna’s Hummingbird stays in the west all year round. They may migrate a short distance if they need to find somewhere new to feed. 

These birds are mostly green and grey in appearance. However the difference between the males and females is that the males head and throat are covered in very bright red/pink feathers. The females have an odd pit of red spotting but nowhere near to the males. 

When courting male Anna’s Hummingbirds can fly up to 130 feet into the air, before diving back down to the ground, while making noise from their tail feathers. These birds love large and colorful flowers. To attract more Anna Hummingbirds to your backyard, you can plant nectar producing plants or put out your own nectar feeder. 

Bushtit

Bushtits can be found along the coast and along the eastern and northern borders all year long. However they are less common along the central corridor of the state and in the southeastern corner of the state. 

Bushtits are very small, plumb and round looking birds. They can be seen in flocks and they are constantly looking for food, which means they don’t stay still for long.

These are quite simple looking birds. They have grey and brownish coloring from head to toe. Their head, wings and tail are slightly darker in color than their chests. Yet both males and females look the same.

Due to their size and very simple coloring, these birds are very common but are hard to see. This is because they blend into their surroundings.

Their diet consists of spiders, caterpillars, ants, beetles and wasps. They like to live in backyards, parks and open woodland or shrubby areas. You can see them hunting from jumping from branch to branch of a tree or in shrubbery.

Bushtits are known for making nests and hanging nests out of soft materials like grass and even spider webs. Their hanging nests take about a month to construct and hang down about a foot in height.

To attract more Bushtits to your garden, try planting trees and shrubs that support the insects that they enjoy eating. Even though they don’t often visit bird feeders, you could fill your bird feeder with mealworms.

Golden-Crowned Sparrows

These birds breed in Alaska and in far Western Canada. However these birds migrate to the West Coast during fall and winter. During this time, you can see these birds in northern and western parts of California.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a much larger type of  sparrow. They have grey chests and stomachs, with brown colored backs. Their wings are streaked with black, brown and white feathers. What makes Golden-crowned Sparrows so noticable and recognisable is the top of their heads.

The top of their heads are black, with a bright yellow spot in the centre of their forehead. In winter, their colors are a bit dull, but you can always recognize this type of bird by their head. 

These birds have a very varied diet. They eat seeds but also have been seen eating fruits like apples, grapes and even wolves. On top of that, these birds even eat insects like ants, butterflies and beetles.

To attract more Golden-crowned Sparrows to your yard, scatter seed on the ground or use a ground feeder and fill it with what you want. These birds have such a varied diet that pretty much anything can attract them to your garden. 

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows spend their summers breeding in Canada and Alaska, then migrate back to the US including California during winter. These are seen as one of the easier sparrows to identify. These birds are a large grey sparrow that has a small beak and a long tail. Their heads are very distinctive, they have bold black and white stripes running across their heads.

You can find these birds in your backyard, along the roadsides, fields and forest edges. They search for seeds of grasses or weeds or fruits like blackberries or elderberries. You can attract more of these birds to your garden with seeds, in particular sunflower seeds. White-crowned Sparrows will eat from bird feeders, but they also like eating fallen seeds on the floor. 

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrows are around throughout the year all over California. Although in the southeastern part of the state, they may only be around during the colder months of winter. These are a very common breed that can be seen throughout most of North America, so their plumage can change from region to region.

Commonly the Song Sparrows you will see have brown colored backs and wings. They will have a lighter chest and stomach, where you will also notice darker brown streaks. Song Sparrows that are found along California’s coastline are said to look a bit greyer and darker, you may also notice heavier streaking on their chests. 

Male Song Sparrows uses his song to defend his territory from intruders. However he also uses his song to attract a mate, a female Song Sparrows attention. You can hear this competition to attract a mate during spring and summer. 

Song Sparrows eat a very varied diet. They eat berries such as raspberries, blackberries and even wheat and rice. They are also known for eating insects such as beetles, caterpillars, spiders and earthworms. You find Song Sparrows in wet areas and shrubby. 

Song Sparrows will eat from bird feeders. So attract more to your garden, fill your feeder with black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn and nyjer. 

Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a type of woodpecker that can be found in California all year round. These are quite large woodpeckers, that are between the size of a robin and a crow.

The Northern Flicker is quite common across the whole of the US and a type of bird you have definitely seen in your own backyard. Like other woodpeckers, if you see a flicker including the Northern Flicker, this is seen as good luck. These birds are also associated with happiness and friendship.

Compared to other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is brown with black spots on their stomachs. They have brown colored faces and a solid black bib. Their wings are a mixture of brown with black flecks. Males are known for having a red ‘mustache’, while the females don’t.

In California, you can get some Northern Flickers that also have red feathers on the underside of their tail and wings. While some Eastern Northern Flickers have yellow feathers on the underside of their wings and tail. This is just something to look out for. 

Northern Flickers would rather feed on the ground, than in trees. Their diet is made up of insects, such as ants and beetles. Northern Flickers might not visit your bird feeders as often as other woodpeckers.

Although, they will come to suet feeders or feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds. However you could also have ground feeders and this might attract them even more, as they prefer to find on the ground. 

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbirds can be seen all year round in California. However, you may notice that they aren’t as commonly seen along the northwestern border during fall or winter. 

These are medium sized birds with small heads and long tails. They are made up of a grey to brown color all over their bodies. Their chest and stomachs are a slightly lighter color than their heads, backs and wings. When flying you’ll notice that on their wings they have two white wing bars. 

Northern Mockingbirds are either found alone or in a pair. They like to live in tall bushes, but they are very defensive of their territory and can be quite aggressive with other birds that try to take it from them.

Male mockingbirds are able to mimic the songs of other birds. It is believed that a male mockingbird can learn in its lifetime up to 200 different songs and they can sing all day and night. 

These birds aren’t known for coming to bird feeders. So instead, plant fruit bearing bushes like blackberry brambles or fruit bearing trees. They might not come to your bird feeders but they will come to open lawn areas. 

Dark-Eyed Junco

This species of bird is seen as a winter bird, because they spend their summers in Canada. Although there are areas in northern California and along the coast where you can see these birds all year long.

Dark-eyed Junco are a type of Sparrow and their coloring depends on the variety. The Oregon variety is commonly seen in California. This variety of Dark-eyed Junco have brown back feathers and pale chest feathers.

Male dark-eyed juncos have a black head, while females have a grey colored head. However the female dark-eyed juncos coloring also isn’t as bright and bold as the males, it appears a lot duller.

These birds can be found living in forests and woodlands. They can be seen hopping around on the ground. If you want to attract more Dark-eyed Juncos to your backyard you can use bird feeders filled with a variety of seeds. However, scattering these seeds on the floor is better for these kinds of birds.

American Robin

These robins are very common and everyone will have seen one on their lawn. Robins can be seen all year round in most areas of California, but in the southern part of this state they only are present in winter. 

These robins are a little larger in size so they are easier to spot. They have orange or red chests and black heads, back feathers and wings.

Also you will notice that they have a bright yellow beak. You will find these birds roosting in trees during the winter and you’ll see them a lot in your garden in the spring. They can live in many habitats, ranging from your garden, to mountains and fields etc. 

American Robins eat a varied diet of insects and fruit. To attract more of these birds to your garden, use a platform feeder or scatter the food on the ground.

Planting plants that will produce berries such as juniper or hawthorn will attract these birds. Sprinkling sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms and peanut hearts can also attract these birds to visit your garden more often.

California Towhee

The California Towhee is a member of the Sparrow family and remains in the state throughout the year. They are more popular in the western half of the state, but can be seen everywhere.

It is said that these birds are known to challenge their own reflection, whether that is looking at themselves in a mirror, or window or in water. They like to build their nests in poison oak.

These are large and plump sparrows. They have short wings and a long tail. Their coloring is a mixture between grey and brown, with spots of rusty brown that can be seen below the tail, on their face and also around their eyes. 

California Towhee likes to eat mostly seeds and berries like elderberries and acorns. To attract more California Towhee to your backyard by sprinkling seeds or millet on the ground. Or planting berry plants that these birds can feed off.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee are a type of large Sparrow, they are about the size of a robin and have long tails. You normally see Spotted Towhee all year round in California, but you may notice that they are absent from the southeastern corner of the state.

Male Spotted Towhees have a black head, throat and back feathers. While female Spotted Towhees have a brown head, throat and back feathers. Both males and females have white chests and white spots on their wings and backs.

On the sides of their stomach, you will notice on both males and females red feathers. 

Like other birds on this list, Spotted Towhee have a varied diet. They can be found on the ground searching for insects, which includes: grasshoppers, caterpillars, wasps, bees and beetles. However they also like eating seeds, berries and even acorns. These birds are known to be master foragers.

These birds don’t eat directly from bird feeders, they instead eat from the ground.

To attract more Spotted Towhee to your garden, try scattering mixed seeds on the ground. You could even try scattering cracked corn, sunflower seeds and millet to attract these birds. As well as that having bushy vegetation in your garden can attract these birds to look for insects. 

Lesser Goldfinch

The Lesser Goldfinch can be seen in flocks of other finches. You may see a flock made up of Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches and Sparrows. However the Lesser Goldfinch can be seen in California all year round. However if you live in the northeastern part of California, these birds are only really present during the warmer months of spring and summer. 

There are a few differences between a male and a female Lesser Goldfinch. Lesser Goldfinches have long pointed wings and a short notched tail. A male Lesser Goldfinch has a bright yellow chest and stomach. They have a dull green back, but black wings and cap.

Compared with a female Lesser Goldfinch who has more of an olive green colored back and head. They too have black wings and a yellow chest. However a female’s coloring isn’t as bright as the males. It is a bit duller in vibrancy. 

Lesser Goldfinches’ habits tend to be open habitats like gardens, weedy fields and even thickets. They enjoy a diet of seeds, in particular sunflower seeds. They also like fruits such as elderberries and buds  from willows and sycamores. 

If you want to attract more Lesser Goldfinches to your garden, fill your bird feeders with sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds. Lesser Goldfinches will regularly come to bird feeders and they adore sunflower seeds too. 

California Scrub-Jay

California Scrub-Jays a type of large songbird. They can be seen throughout California all throughout the year. They are more commonly found in northern, central and coastal California. These birds are known for their boisterous personality. People believe that these birds enjoy scheming and being vocal about what they are doing. 

The California Scrub-Jays have a bright and deep blue head, back, wings and tail feathers. With a white chest and stomach. They have a black beak and black feathers around their eyes. Their beak is quite long and so is their tail.

Some people have said that there are similarities between the California Scrub-Jay and the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, but the California Scrub-Jay has much more vivid colors. 

During the warmer months of spring and summer, you will see these birds eating insects and fruit. Then during fall and winter, they switch their diet to seeds, nuts and acorns. The California Scrub-Jay can be found in gardens, parks and woodlands. 

To attract more of these beautiful birds to your backyard by having a mixture of trees. Fruit bearing trees for the warmer months and oak trees for the cooler months. You can also fill your bird feeders with peanuts and sunflower seeds to attract them. 

Yellow-Rumped Warblers

Yellow-rumped Warblers’ location can be difficult to pinpoint. In the north part of the state, you can find this bird pretty much all year round and you may notice a flux in spring and summer as some come to breed there.

In the southern part of the state, the Yellow-rumped Warblers are more of a winter bird. So finding this bird in your garden can differ depending on where you live in the state and the time of year. 

Like other birds on the list, the color pattern does depend on the variety you are looking at. In general, Yellow-rumped Warblers are grey with spots of bright yellow on their sides, throats, wings, face and sides. Females can be slightly more brown than grey. Female’s yellow marking may also not be as distinctive as the males.

Also in the winter both the male and female coloring may not be as bold or cripst like it is during spring.  In California, you are more likely to see the Audubon’s variety of Yellow-rumped Warbler. 

To attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your garden, try filling your bird feeders with sunflower seeds, raisins, suet and even peanut butter.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is mainly a winter bird for California, so only seen during winter. There are a few exceptions however, in the northern part of the state where some Ruby-crowned Kinglets will nest there during the breeding season. It is known that these small birds can lay up to 12 eggs in their nest at any one time.

This is a small bird, which is an olive green color. They have yellow edged wings and tail feathers, while there are also a white wing bars. Males have a small patch of bright red feathers on the top of their head, that he will flash when he is excited. You can’t always see these red feathers, the ‘ruby-crown’ that the males have is only occasionally visible. 

Rugby-crowned Kinglets are known for being energetic birds that are seen darting through trees and flicking their wings. Their wing flicking is a way of the birds being able to identify one another. These aren’t the easiest birds to spot due to their coloring and the fact that they are so quick. They search trees for insects. 

Occasionally, these birds will visit a bird feeder, so if you want to attract them, put out sunflower chips, mealworms, peanut hearts and suet.

Steller’s Jay

Steller’s Jay can be found mainly in Northern California, but they can be found all over the state. They can be found in any forested regions. This is a type of large songbird that makes their nests out of mud.

These songbirds are quite striking to look at. They have a black head and throat that then blends into its deep blue stomach, back, wings and tail. They have a long blue tail and a black beak. The Steller Jay also has a large chest that can be displayed. This is normally seen during either courtship or done in aggression. 

You are likely to see this type of bird at campground, in your garden, around picnic tables and in the evergreen forests in the mountains. Steller’s Jays eat a varied diet, they eat pretty much anything.

Some of the things they are known to eat includes seeds, insects, berries, eggs, nestlings and nuts. It isn’t too hard to attract these birds to your backyard as they enjoy eating so much. They will eat from bird feeders filled with large seeds, peanuts and suet.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds can be seen in California throughout the year. This is a polygynous species, which means that male Red-winged Blackbirds will mate with up to 15 different females. 

Male and female Red-winged Blackbirds look very different and it may be difficult to identify a female Red-winged Blackbird. The male Red-winged Blackbirds have a black body, head, tail and wings. At the top of their wings you will notice a red and yellow shoulder patch. These red and yellow feathers are very striking compared to its black body.

The females in comparison have a dark brown coloring with light streaks running throughout the head, body, wings and tail. Compared to the males, the females look completely different and aren’t as striking. 

Male Red-winged Blackbirds can become aggressive when protecting their territory. Sometimes they have been seen sitting on telephone wires.

If you want to attract more Red-winged Blackbirds to your garden, try using mixed grain and seeds and either spread them on the ground or use a platform feeder. These birds will eat from most types of feeders and are even known to eat suet. 

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebirds live in woodlands instead of open areas. They can be seen all over California, but do tend to stay away from the southeastern corner of the state. They aren’t very popular with bird feeders but put up a birdhouse instead. They are quite common in birdhouses as a mating pair will use it to breed. 

Male Western Bluebirds have blue feathers on their head, throat, wings and tail. Their chest is a rusty orange color, which is also seen just above their wings and down the bird’s sides.

In comparison to the female Western Bluebirds, look similar to the males, except they have no blue on their throats. Also the females coloring is a lot less vibrant and duller compared to the males. 

Western Bluebirds have two different diets. In the warmer months they will eat insects such as caterpillars, ants, spiders, beetles, and snails. While in the colder months, they will eat grapes, raspberries, seeds and mistletoe.

As Western Bluebirds don’t really feed off bird feeders, to attract these birds put up a bird box and put out mealworms. Also plant berry plants for them to harvest from.

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is normally found in coastal areas and central areas of California. They enjoy living in flocks in wet evergreen forests, but they are known for using bird boxes people put in their own backyards. These are very curious and brave birds, but also quick to avoid danger.

This is a small bird with long wings and tail. The top half of their heads, above the beak is black and below their beak is white. They have a round body, which is a chestnut color on the back and a lighter white on their chests. Finally they have a short beak and grey wings. Both males and females look the same. 

Like a lot of birds on this list, they have a varied diet, which includes insects like caterpillars, wasps and spiders. They also eat fruit, seeds and berries. Chestnut-backed Chickadee will eat from most bird feeders, To attract more to your garden, use black oil sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms and peanuts.

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick’s Wren can be seen in northern and central California all year. They can be seen in southern California but only during the winter. 

These birds have a brown back, forehead, wings and tail. They then have a white face and chest. Also these birds have long white eyebrows that you can clearly see. They have a long and slightly downward facing beak. Depending on the region, in warmer regions they have a more warm brown coloring, while in cooler regions it is a more grey-brown coloring.

Male Bewick’s Wren can remember up to 22 different songs. Also when the males are small, their singing is a lot louder.  These birds like to live in our gardens, thickets or in any bushy habitats. They like to eat mainly insects like beetles, wasps, ants, caterpillars and spiders to name a few.

So if you want to attract more Bewick’s Wren to your garden, you can plant shrubs in your garden. They don’t normally like using bird feeders so sprinkling mealworms on the ground is another way to attract them to your yard.

European Starling

European Starlings can be found all over California and all year round. These aren’t the most pleasant birds to have in your garden. They are known for destroying other birds’ nests and killing their young in the process.

When it comes to food they will try to eat everything or not allow any other birds to come near it. They are basically the bullies of the bird world. 

These birds can look beautiful in the right lighting. They have black heads, bodies, wings and tails. There are some white specks on their backs and wings too. In the right light their black feathers can look either purple or a deep green color. Alongside this they have short wings and tail, but they have a yellow beak and feet. 

The European Starling will eat pretty much anything. However we suggest not trying to attract these birds to your yard, because they will make other birds stay away and not come back.

Also you don’t need to try and attract these birds, they normally turn up at some point anyway. However, if you did want to attract these birds, they’d enjoy black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and cracked corn.

American Crow

The American Crow can be found all over California, all year long. They do tend to prefer open or at least partially open areas. All crows are known for their distinctive cawing sound that they make. They are also very easy to recognise as are black from head to toe.

American Crows are very friendly and will form extremely large flocks with one another. In particular, American Crows will gather in large numbers in winter to sleep together. However during the rest of the year, American Crows can be found pretty much anywhere, from beaches, towns, fields and woodlands. 

These birds are known for eating on the ground and eating foods like insects, fruits and seeds. However it is known that they do eat fish, young turtles, clams, eggs and nestlings of other kinds of birds.

These birds can become an issue if they become attracted to your garbage. Although, if you want to attract these birds to your garden, you should try scattering peanuts in your yard. 

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows breed in mainly North America and then go to Central and Southern America. Hence you can see these birds for most, if not all of the year. These are quite a small bird, which are known for their deep-blue back, tail and wings. They then have a red-brown coloring around their beak and on their chest. They have quite a long, deeply forked tail and wide wings. 

You may see this bird flying around and over farms, fields and meadows. It is known that they build their nests out of mud on man made structures.

Barn Swallows mainly feed on large flies like house and stable flies. If you want to attract more Barn Swallows to your backyard, then you could put up bird boxes when it is breeding season. You could also put out some broken up eggshells out on a platform for them to eat

Conclusion

In this article we have gone through the top 26 birds that you will find in your backyard in California. These are the birds that will commonly visit you, but it depends what season it is, which will determine which birds will come and pay your backyard a visit.

To attract birds, there is a wide variety of bird feeders that you can choose from and fill with your desired bird’s favorite foods. However, also planting bushes, trees and plants that your birds like will help you attract them more to your garden. There is a lot you can do to make your backyard a haven for birds.

Now you’ll be able to know which birds are making frequent visits to your backyard.