California's most common Backyard Birds

California's most common Backyard Birds (Part 1)

The most common birds in your backyard are listed and discussed in this article. The birds featured in this article were chosen based on data from the eBird citizen science program. As a result, it is more precise than some other identical articles on the internet. Photographs of each of the bird species are included in this article.  This article explains how to get them to come to your backyard.

In California, the following are the most common backyard birds:

House Finch

Black Phoebe

Anna's Hummingbird

American Crow

Mourning Dove

California Scrub-Jay

White-crowned Sparrow

What is the content of this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching in California
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • California Birds and Birding in California State

California is home to around 710 different bird species, according to eBird.

The most prevalent bird is the House Finch, which is the most common bird in the state . The California Quail is the state bird of California. Check out eBird for California if you're serious about learning about the birds that call California home.   Join a local bird group if you wish to meet other people who are interested in birds in your region. Each state's list of bird-watching clubs is maintained by the American Birding Association.

Identification of Birds in California

This section describes species. These are provided to help you in identifying birds in your backyard .  Each species profile begins with a photo. Before evaluating the colour or patterns on the birds, size, shape, and bill type are used in the identification phase. When trying to identify an unknown bird, these are more reliable. Pay attention to the shape of the bird's body and tail, as well as the shape of its bill, rather than just the colour of its plumage.

How to attract each species is covered in the section on bird feeders and foods. Feeders will not attract all sorts of backyard birds. Water, on the other hand, can attract all backyard birds.

Most birds that appear in this article are found across the state and are generally year-round inhabitants. Even if a species is found throughout a large area, it only occurs in the habitat that it prefers. As a result, the exact habitat of your area has a role in the presence or absence of specific bird species.

1. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Range in California: House Finches can be found across California all year. Other red finches exist, but these are the ones that are most likely to be found in residential areas.


This is a useful species to compare to an unfamiliar bird.

Size: From bill tip to tail tip, it's about 6 inches long. Greater in size than either goldfinches or chickadees. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees.

Shape: Medium construction with a notched tail that is medium in length. With a round head.

Bill: Conical and short.

Color: Brown and grey above, with pale underparts with streaks on the sides. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Small flocks can be seen on wires, in short, treetops, and in shrubs. Originally, these areas were deserts and grasslands. They're presently most common in rural and urban locations. Previously found throughout western USA and Mexico. Then brought to the northeastern United States, it is now present in practically every state in the lower 48 states and extreme southern Canada.

Food and feeders: House Finches prefer black oil sunflower seeds and tube feeders as food and feeders.

2. Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Range in California: Many California residents must be familiar with this cheerful little backyard flycatcher.  In California, Black Phoebes can be seen all year in the Central Valley, as well as the central and southern coastal areas. They can also be found in lower elevations away from steep mountains.


Size: Similar to a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern Towhee in size. House Finches are smaller than this one. 

Shape: Large peaked head with a potbelly and a long slender tail.

Bill: Straight and wide, about half the length of the head.

Color: The upper portions and upper breast are sooty blacks in colour. The belly is white.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Found near water in lowlands, on large lawns, and in grassy backyards. The western United States, much of Mexico, and northern and western South America are all home to this species. Their mud nests may be built on porches or barns. Sitting stationary, then sallying out to catch a flying bug and returning to a perch with a bob of the tail is common flycatching behavior.

Food and feeder: Black Phoebes love to eat flying insects, which they pursue low over the lawn in airborne chases. They don't eat from bird feeders, but they do need mud for their nests, which they get from your birdbath.

3) Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

The large resident hummingbird of California can be seen almost anywhere there are people!

Range in California: Anna's Hummingbirds stay all year in California.


Size: Slightly larger than ordinary hummingbirds like the Ruby-throated and Rufous Hummingbirds in the east and west, respectively. Smaller than a chickadee or goldfinch.

Size: Plump, having long wings that overlap the tail. Its bill is unquestionably long.

Bill: Longer, broader, and somewhat downcurved than the head.

Color: The Upperparts are green, with grey underparts and a greenish shade on the sides. Male with bright metallic rose pink covering his entire head and throat. A pink throat spot is common in females. 

Habitat, Range & Behavior: Chaparrals, open woods, and suburban gardens all are places where this plant can be discovered. Previously mainly found in northern Baja California and southern California, they have now spread to Arizona and all the way to southern Alaska along the Pacific coast, thanks to the popularity of hummingbird feeders and the planting of winter-blooming flowers. Even when they colonize northward and encounter snow in the winter, they nest early (December to February).

Food and Feeder preference: Anna's Hummingbirds prefer nectar and tiny insects as their primary food sources. Both can be found in flowering plants. Hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water attract them immediately.

4. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

This huge all-black bird can be seen in both city and rural areas. Most people are familiar with its cawing call.

Range in California: American Crows are year-round residents of California, with the exception of high mountains and harsh deserts.

Identification: This is a key species to compare with an unfamiliar bird.

Size: From bill tip to tail tip, it's about 17-1/2 inches long, though there's a lot of diversity in size within its range.  Blackbirds and grackles are smaller than this one. Smaller than ravens. Smaller than ravens.

Shape: A thick neck, a huge head, and a square-ended tail that is relatively short. Longer legs. In-flight has rounded wingtips with each primary feather separated from others forming "fingers."

Bill: Head-length, thick, black.

Color: Throughout, the color is glossy black.

Habitat, range & behavior: They like open spaces with trees, fields, farms, and cities. Except in the desert southwest, they can be found across the lower 48 states of the United States. During the summer, they migrate to southern Canada. They congregate in vast flocks in evening communal roosts, sometimes numbering in the thousands, and then depart at daybreak for the surrounding area.

Food and feeder preference: American Crows are omnivorous, therefore they eat huge insects, grain, small mammals, and carrion. These big, totally black birds are probably not what you want in your garden feeders

5. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

In the Lower 48 states of the United States, mourning doves are the most common and popular backyard bird.

Range in California: Mourning Doves are year-round inhabitants of most of California, but they migrate to lower elevations in the winter.

Identification: This is a key species to compare to an unfamiliar bird.

Size: From bill tip to tail tip, it's around 12 inches long. About same size as Northern Flicker. More than the size of an American Robin. Smaller than the domestic city pigeon.

Shape: Small round head with a fat body. The tail is long and slender, with a pointed tip. Legs are slender.

Bill: Bill is small, and short.

Color: The body is a light brown pink, with darker wings and a tail. On the side of the tail, there are white borders.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Semi-open places like cities, farmlands, and woods. Often seen perched on wires and fences. It lives in the lower 48 states and Mexico, with limited winter migration out of northern locations. Their melancholy cooing is a well-known spring bird song.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves exclusively eat seeds. On a large strong tray feeder or on the ground, attract with black oil sunflower seeds.

6. California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

This is the common lowland jay of California, a bold and loud bird.

Range in California: California Scrub-Jays can be found year-round below the mountains and west of the deserts in California.


Size: This bird is about the size of a Northern Mockingbird or an American Robin. They're bigger than a European Starling. Same as t he size of a Mourning Dove.

Shape: Strong, with a thick neck and a large head. Legs are long. Tail is fairly long and full.

Bill: Long and robust, with a curved tip.

Color: Upper parts, wings, and tail are a deep azure blue, with a gray-brown back. White underparts with a blue necklace strewn across the chest.   

Habitat, range & behavior: Oak woodlands, chaparral, and residential areas are among the habitats, ranges, and behaviors of this species. From northern Baja California to Washington state, this species can be found along the West Coast. They forage on the ground throughout the fall, storing food for the winter ahead.

Food and feeders:  Scrub-Jays eat insects, berries, small animals, and bird eggs and thus are omnivorous. They may annoy other birds at hopper and tray feeders by gulping down enormous quantities of black oil sunflower seeds. To keep the jays out, some people use wire mesh cages over their hopper and tube feeders; smaller birds can get through the mesh.

7. White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

A popular visitor to backyards across the United States during the winter.

Range in California: White-crowned Sparrows have three breeding populations in California, as well as a wintering population. The northern and central California coasts, as well as the northern High Sierras, have year-round residents. From October through April, a broad northern variant can be seen all over California.

Identification: This is a key species to compare to an unfamiliar bird.

Size: Approximately 7 inches in length. Larger than House Finch. Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds are bigger than this one. 

 Bill: Conical and short.

Color: Back, wings, and tail are brown, with grey underparts and a black-and-white striped crown. Immature birds have tan and reddish-brown striped crowns for their first year.

Habitat, range, and behavior: This species prefers open, shrubby habitats. Various species can be found breeding in the Arctic of Canada and Alaska, as well as in the mountains of western Canada and the United States. They sing as they migrate northward in the spring. The songs of various populations differ slightly. 

Food and feeder preference: White-crowned Sparrows eat weed seeds, grain, and insects, among other things. On hopper and tray feeders, attract with black oil sunflower seeds and other seeds.

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