Winter in California is a time of wonder and delight for birdwatchers, as many birds from across North America come to escape the cold.
These feathered friends bring a touch of magic to the state, with their unique songs, colors, and behaviors.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 fascinating bird species that grace California’s skies during the winter months.
The White-crowned Sparrows are common types of birds that spend their winter in California. These birds migrate from northern North America to spend winters in more moderate regions, including parts of California.
During winter, you’ll often find White-crowned Sparrows in various places like suburbs, gardens, parks, and open woodlands. They mostly search for food on the ground, eating seeds, insects, and small fruits.
Identifying them is quite easy. Look for their standout feature: a bold black-and-white striped crown. They also have a gray face, brown-streaked upperparts, and a grayish breast with a white belly. Juveniles might have less distinct markings compared to adults.
Keep an eye out for them in bushy areas or while foraging on the ground. Listen for their sweet and clear whistled song, often described as “Oh, sweet Canada Canada Canada.”
To attract these sparrows to your backyard, consider providing bird feeders with seeds. This can offer great opportunities to observe and enjoy these delightful winter visitors in California.
Anna’s Hummingbird is a familiar sight in California throughout the year, even during the winter. These colorful birds that spend their winter in California are found in gardens, parks, and residential areas, especially near flowers or feeders.
During the colder months, it’s important to support these tiny birds by providing sugar-water nectar in feeders since natural flower sources might be limited.
Identifying male Anna’s Hummingbirds is easy due to their vibrant rose-red crown and throat. Females have more subtle colors, with green and gray on their backs and white or lightly speckled throats.
In winter, watch for Anna’s Hummingbirds near flowers, feeders, or perched on branches. Their high-pitched sounds and rapid wing movements often give away their presence.
By setting up feeders with nectar and planting flowers that produce nectar, you can attract these beautiful birds to your yard and enjoy observing their vivid colors and agile flight all year in California.
The Great Egrets are year-round resident birds that spend their winter in California, during the winter months.
These elegant creatures frequent diverse wetland environments like marshes, estuaries, ponds, and coastal areas.
During winter, these striking birds are commonly seen in California’s wetlands where water is available. They’re recognized by their tall, slim build, snowy white plumage, long black legs, and distinctive yellow bills. When in flight, their wingspan often exceeds four feet.
Great Egrets primarily dine on fish, frogs, insects, and small aquatic creatures, utilizing their sharp beaks to skillfully hunt in shallow waters. Their patient and precise stalking behavior is remarkable.
Spotting these graceful birds is relatively easy due to their striking appearance. They’re often observed wading in shallow waters or perched near bodies of water, especially during the winter months when colder climates elsewhere might drive them to seek milder areas.
For birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in California, witnessing these majestic Great Egrets in their natural wetland habitats during the winter season offers a delightful and captivating experience.
Related: Winter Birds in Michigan
The Red-tailed Hawks are types of hawk birds that spend their winter in California. These impressive birds can be found in various habitats, from open fields to forests and even urban areas.
During California’s winter, you’ll often see Red-tailed Hawks soaring in the sky or perched on high spots like poles or trees. They’re recognized by their wide wingspan and reddish tail feathers, though these might not be clear from a distance.
Red-tailed Hawks mainly hunt small animals like mammals, birds, and reptiles, and sometimes feed on carrion. Their sharp eyesight and hunting skills make them effective predators.
They’re known for their distinctive high-pitched scream while flying and often build nests in tall trees, showing courtship behaviors in winter.
Spotting these hawks during California’s winter provides a chance to admire their graceful flight and their vital role as top predators in the ecosystem, maintaining the wildlife balance in the region.
The Ruby-crowned Kinglets are small birds that spend their winter in California and are commonly seen in California during winter. These tiny birds live in forests, woodlands, and parks with lots of plants.
They have olive-green feathers with a white wing bar. Male Ruby-crowned Kinglets have a red patch on their heads (though it’s often hidden). Females and young birds look more plain.
In winter, you can find them hunting insects among branches and leaves. They move quickly, flicking their wings and tail as they search for bugs.
These active birds sing fast, high-pitched songs all year round, but they’re usually heard more than seen due to their small size and speedy movements.
Spotting Ruby-crowned Kinglets in California during winter brings liveliness to the landscape, giving a chance to watch their quick moves and listen to their distinctive songs.
The American Coots are water birds that spend their winter in California. They like freshwater places such as ponds and lakes.
In winter, you’ll find groups of American Coots in wetlands. They’re easy to spot with their black bodies, white bills, and white patches on their foreheads.
They eat plants, algae, and small creatures found underwater. These birds are good divers and often swim quickly.
During winter in California, American Coots gather in big groups, moving together on the water. Watching them gives a chance to see their unique appearance and their skilled swimming and diving abilities in freshwater areas.
The Common Ravens are large types of birds that spend their winter in California. You can find them in forests, mountains, cities, and deserts.
They’re big, all-black birds with a wedge-shaped tail and a deep, croaking call that’s easy to recognize.
In winter, you might see them flying in pairs or small groups, doing acrobatics, or playing games in the air.
These smart birds eat many things like carrion, insects, small animals, fruits, and seeds.
Watching Common Ravens during winter in California is a chance to see their cleverness, flying skills, and their important role in the state’s different environments.
The California Towhees are special and unique birds that spend their winter in California. They like places with bushes and gardens.
Identified by their plain brown-gray feathers and reddish-brown eyes, these birds stay on the ground, searching for seeds, bugs, and plants to eat.
During winter, you’ll see them in bushy areas, using their strong legs to look for food on the ground. They have a distinctive sound like a metallic chip or a repeated “chewink.”
California Towhees usually hide in dense plants but might visit feeders for seeds, especially in backyards.
Watching California Towhees during winter lets you see how they find food on the ground and hear their special calls, making them a charming part of California’s outdoor scenes.
The Turkey Vultures are very big birds that spend their winter in California. They live in different places like forests, open areas, and near roads.
You can recognize them by their large size, dark feathers, and red, bald head. They fly gracefully, soaring high in the sky, using their sharp sense of smell to find dead animals to eat.
In California winters, you’ll often see Turkey Vultures soaring in the air, riding warm air currents effortlessly. They help keep the environment clean by eating carcasses, which prevents the spread of diseases.
Even though they may look scary, Turkey Vultures play an important role in nature by cleaning up decaying animals, which keeps the environment healthy.
Watching Turkey Vultures in California during winter is a chance to admire their impressive flight and appreciate how they help maintain a clean environment.
The American Robins are common birds that spend their winter in California. You’ll recognize them by their reddish-orange breast and gray-brown back.
During winter in California, you can find American Robins in parks, gardens, and urban areas. They often gather in groups, searching for insects, fruits, and berries on lawns and in bushes.
American Robins mostly eat insects, but in winter, they rely more on fruits and berries when insects are scarce.
Their presence in California during winter depends on the region and weather conditions. Sometimes, you’ll see fewer of them when it’s colder.
Seeing American Robins during winter in California is a chance to watch them search for food in groups, adding a familiar sight to the winter scenery.
As the winter season draws to a close and these avian visitors prepare for their return journeys, California’s landscapes are left with the echoes of their songs and the memories of their vibrant presence. As winter turns to spring, these special birds say goodbye to California and fly back to their northern homes. We are grateful for their visit and the beauty they bring to our state.