California's popular backyard birds

California's popular backyard birds (Part 2)

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:

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • California Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • European Starling
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Bushtit

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 color 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 color 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. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

A common winter visitor to trees and weedy areas in California.

Range in California: Yellow-rumped Warblers breed in the higher mountains and winter across the state of California.


Size: They are slightly larger than chickadees and goldfinches in size and smaller than juncos and House Finches.

Shape: Plump, neckless, and with a shorter tail.

Bill: Slender, short, straight, and pointed.

Color: In the spring, the breeding plumage is blue-gray on the top portions, black on the sides and chest, and yellow on the rump and sides. There are two types: one with a yellow throat and a huge white wing patch, and the other with a white throat and two white wing bars. Both types have gray-brown upper plumage and pale cream lower plumage in the winter. 

Habitat, range, and behavior: During the breeding season, it is usually found in coniferous or mixed forests in the west's mountains. In open areas with fruiting shrubs and scattered trees in the winter. Breed in Canada and Alaska, as well as in western coniferous forests. It can be found on both coasts and in the southern states of Middle America. In Mexico and Guatemala, there are also non-migratory forms. 

Food and Feeder preference: Yellow-rumped Warblers have a preference for insects in the summer. In the winter, they move to waxy berries and fruit. As a result, they can spend the winter further north than other warblers. Suet feeders are attractive to them.

2.  California Towhee (Melozone crissalis)

California Towhee (Melozone crissalis)

In California, this is a simple though common bird.

Range in California: California Towhees live year-round in the lowlands and west of the deserts.


Size: A European Starling or a Red-winged Blackbird is smaller than California Towhee. Smaller than an American Robin. Spotted/Eastern towhees are smaller than California Towhee.

Shape: Massive heavy sparrow with a short neck, large head, and a large full tail.

Bill: Conical, short, and thick.

Color: Rusty under tail coverts, dusty brown.

Habitat, distribution, and behavior: From Baja California Sur to SW Oregon, this species can be found in chaparral scrub. Scratches through the leaf litter on the ground in search of food. Unlike many other chaparral birds, this one did not flee when the residential landscape encroached; instead, it moved right into the backyard!

Food and feeder preference: Californian Towhees have a preference for seeds and insects. They'll consume mixed seeds from a tray feeder or seeds from the ground beneath the feeder.

3. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

It's a common bird, but it's also variable, and it looks like a lot of other streaking brown sparrows.

Range in California: Song sparrows are year-round dwellers except the southern deserts. Northern birds that nest in Canada spend the winter in a variety of locations, including the southern deserts.


Size: A smaller bird that looks like a House Finch or a junco. Chickadees and goldfinches are smaller than this one. White-crowned Sparrows and Spotted/Eastern towhees are larger than this one.

Shape: Plump with a round head and a long rounded tail.

Bill: Conical and short.

Color: Throughout its range, it is quite diverse in terms of darkness and color saturation (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on the back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Thickets, especially near water, and Shrubbery in the backyard are the habitat of this species. The western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, and the northeastern United States are all home to this species. In the summer they move to the middle of Canada and the northern part of the United States. During the winter, it can be seen throughout the lower 48 states of the United States. In addition, there is a population in central Mexico. They forage on the ground and are seldom far from low cover, which they will flee to if alarmed.

Food and feeder preference: Song Sparrows have a preference for seeds and insects that fall on the ground. For mixed birdseed, they will visit hopper and tray feeders.

4. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

They were first introduced to North America in the late 1800s and have since spread across the continent, frequently at the expense of native cavity-nesting birds.

Range in California: European Starlings can be found all year in California.


Size: Similar to a Red-winged Blackbird. White-crowned Sparrow and Spotted/Eastern Towhee are both smaller than this one.

Shape: Stocky, with a huge head and a short, squared-off tail. Legs are longer.

Bill: As long as the head. Sharp and pointed. In the spring, it's yellow, but otherwise, it's dark.

Color: Throughout the year, they are greyish brown, with glossy iridescence and white spotting in the spring.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Prefers large enough trees for nest cavities but needs enough open space for feeding. They are especially common in cities and suburbs, where they may find food and artificial nesting cavities. From southern Canada to northern Mexico, they live coast to coast. In the summer, they travel north across Canada and Alaska. Europe to Pakistan and north Africa are native ranges. Starlings are sometimes considered a problem because they bully other backyard birds, stealing bird feeders and nest holes from smaller native birds. In winter they can form into flocks of tens of thousands.

Food and feeder preference:  When insects are accessible, European Starlings like to eat them, and they often feed on the ground. Never feed table scraps to birds in your backyard hopper and tray feeders to keep them away. They have shaky feet and struggle to perch on tube feeders.`

5. Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)

In the drier portions of the Southwest, this popular bird takes the place of the American Goldfinch.

Range in California: Except in the highest northern ranges, Lesser Goldfinches live year-round.


Size: A small bird. Smaller than the American Goldfinch, but not much.

Shape: Large head with no neck and a short forked tail.

Bill: Conical, short, and tiny.

Color: The back is green, with yellow underparts, including the under tail coverts. White markings on black wings and tail. Male with a black cap on forecrown. Unlike the American Goldfinch, it maintains its beautiful yellow plumage all year.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open scrubby forests of oak or other trees, fields, and grasslands are the habitat of this species. In the summer, it can be found in the western and southwestern United States, as well as the Great Basin. It can be found all the way down to Middle America. They sometimes join in large flocks to graze in weedy areas.

Food and feeder preference: Lesser Goldfinches love thistle seeds and insects. They will consume black oil sunflower seeds from a tube feeder, but Niger seeds from a "thistle sock" feeder will attract them immediately.

6. Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)

These birds' nests can be found around 6-8 feet off the ground, beneath the lower limbs of conifers or other bushy trees. Their nests are like an old white sock dangling from a branch. They're formed of lichens and other plant materials, as well as hair, and are held together by spider webs.

Range in California: Bushtits are year-round dwellers throughout much of California, but not in the high mountains or the southern deserts


Size: Bushtits are very little birds. It's about the same size as a hummingbird. Smaller than a chickadee or goldfinch.

Shape: Plump with a long rounded tail and a round head.

Bill: Short, sturdy, and straight.

Color: Gray throughout, with a darker brown head. The birds in the interior are paler.

Habitat, range, and behavior: This species can be found in open forests, scrub, and chaparral. Bushtits are a type of bird that can be found in the western United States and Mexico. They can be found in big twittering flocks for most of the year. They fly from bush to bush in a single file.

Food and feeder preference: Bushtits eat a variety of insects and use a variety of feeders. This species can be found in shrubs near houses during winter. Offer a suet block to attract them to your backyard.

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