Thursday, April 18, 2019

Another 10 common backyard birds of San Diego

This post adds 10 more backyard birds to the initial list of 10 I felt were most common.

Now, as Tito mentioned in his comments to the last post, every backyard is a bit different. He thought Song Sparrow should definitely be one of the 10 most common. He lives near the beach, so that's to be expected. I don't have that species in my dry inland backyard, and only hear them about 3 times a year in my neighborhood. But Tito's yard is evidently different. Not to worry, though! Song Sparrow is definitely in the top 30. Today, though, I list the species I deem #11-20 most common backyard birds in the San Diego area. The final 10 (yes, including Song Sparrow) is coming in a future post.

If you found the first ten species in your yard, can you now find the next ten? The first 10 tended to be ones that were easily attracted with food or water. This next set of 10 is attracted primarily by habitat--they are attracted to our landscaping, or they are birds of native chaparral that brushes up against the edges of towns, if you happen to live on the edge of more rural, open areas.

11) Red-shouldered Hawk

Adult Red-shouldered Hawk
Adult Red-shouldered Hawk. December 25, 2014. Ramona, California.
Immature Red-shouldered Hawk
Immature Red-shouldered Hawk. October 7, 2018. Mt Laguna, California.
Red-shouldered Hawks prefer woods and riparian edges more so than Red-tailed Hawks. Thus, town edges, pastures, creek sides, oaks, sycamores, and eucalyptus groves all support Red-shouldered Hawks and their loud, repeated "keer" calls. Even if none visit your yard, you'll likely see them soaring overhead--perhaps chased by noisy crows!

12) Nuttall's Woodpecker

Male Nuttall's Woodpecker
Male Nuttall's Woodpecker. February 2, 2014. Lake Hodges, California.
Female Nuttall's Woodpecker
Female Nuttall's Woodpecker. February 8, 2017. Escondido, California.
If your backyard has any oaks or sycamore trees, you'll likely have a pair of Nuttall's Woodpeckers that frequents it with their rattling calls.

13) Hooded Oriole

Male Hooded Oriole
Male Hooded Oriole. April 6, 2014. Escondido, California.
Female Hooded Oriole
Female Hooded Oriole. April 16, 2017. Vallecito County Park, California.
Do you have a tall palm tree in your yard? Then you have Hooded Orioles that visit for the summer, late March into September. Listen for their chatters and chirps and flute-like whistled notes. There is a feeder for orioles--similar to a hummingbird feeder but with orange slices and jelly--for closer views. They will also be attracted to water features--bird baths or fountains.

14) Yellow-rumped Warbler

Breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's form)
Breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's form). April 29, 2010. Forest Grove, Oregon.
Non-breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's form)
Non-breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's form). November 17, 2017. Escondido, California.
This abundant warbler may breed in small numbers in San Diego's highest forested mountains, and from here northward to Alaska. In winter it is found in lowlands from the Pacific Northwest into Mexico. Unlike most warblers, this species can switch from insects in summer to fruits in winter. Thus, it can remain farther north in winter than other warbler species. You may find it in most deciduous backyard trees in "winter" (October to April).

15) House Sparrow

Male House Sparrow carrying nesting material
Male House Sparrow carrying nesting material. March 18, 2019. Borrego Springs, California.
Female House Sparrow
Female House Sparrow. February 16, 2011. Beaverton, Oregon.
House Sparrows are urban dwellers--except when they are farm dwellers. They are less common in suburban residential. Because they are often messy and noisy, most people don't actively try to attract this species to their backyards. They will take over bluebird nest boxes, but have weaker feet. Thus, other cavity nesting birds (bluebirds, swallows, wrens, nuthatches, titmouses) will have a chance against them if there is no perch on the nest box. Likewise, these birds eat millet, the "filler" seed in bags of generic "mixed seeds" that many native birds don't like. So, if you feed black oil sunflowers, rather than "mixed seeds," you may have less problem with these birds taking over.

16) Say's Phoebe

Say's Phoebe
Say's Phoebe. December 22, 2013. Mission Bay, California.
The Say's Phoebe prefers dry pastures and chaparral. In winter you may find them in open lawn spaces and parks around your neighborhood. There they chase flying insects low along the ground. If you live in a more rural area, they may nest in an open corner of an outbuilding, or perhaps on top of a light fixture on your porch.

17) Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove. March 12, 2017. Borrego Springs, California.
Perhaps the fastest colonizing bird in the world. After taking over Europe in the last century they repeated their conquest in the New World. Escaped cage birds apparently flew from the Bahamas to Florida in the 1980's. Their method of colonizing is to breed for a couple of years in one area and build up large numbers, then many of the colony disperse, flying 500 miles or more and do it again. They tend to spread in a northwesterly direction first, then back fill. Their breeding sites also tend to change over the years. You'll find these loud pigeons around human habitation, residential areas and farms, similar to where Mourning Doves are found, but not so much in the open country.

18) Cassin's Kingbird

Cassin's Kingbird
Cassin's Kingbird. November 3, 2018. Ramona, California.
The Cassin's Kingbird is a year-round resident in southern California. It prefers the lowlands, pastures, and lone tall trees over large expanses of lawn. They flycatch at tree-top level.

19) Bushtit

Male Bushtit
Male Bushtit. October 4, 2015. San Elijo Lagoon, California.
Female Bushtit
Female Bushtit. October 9, 2009. Forest Grove, Oregon.
"What are those tiny gray mouse-like birds crawling around my shrubs under the window?" Those are Bushtits. They are likely searching for spiders to eat. It's the eyes! Females have pale eyes, males are dark. Otherwise they appear the same. A pair builds a gray sock-like nest of lichens and spider webs that hangs down under a branch about 6 feet off the ground. For the rest of the year, though, they are found in flocks of 20-50 birds.

20) House Wren

House Wren
House Wren. July 4, 2018. Lake Hodges, California.
This is a common bird of chaparral and residential bushes and brush piles. Resident birds are supplemented by winter visitors from the north. They eat insects and grubs. The more overgrown your yard with mature shrubs, the more likely your yard will host House Wrens in winter. If your yard is brushy enough, a pair may stay throughout the year and nest in a nest box or other cavity.

Want more? The final 10 common backyard birds of San Diego is here!


  1. Hello,
    Thank you for all this helpful and interesting information. I wondered if you could give me some advice on the type of food that would be best for my bird feeder. I live in North county Encinitas area. I have a large patio with lots of plants and a couple of small trees. I bought sunflower chips without hulls but don't seem to be attracting any birds.
    Thank you.

  2. You may have to give it a while. Southern California feeder birds are sometimes hard to attract to the feeders at first. You should be having House Finches and some Lesser Goldfinches with your sunflower chips. California Towhees like to feed on the ground. So a lower feeder for them might be good, as long as there are no cats.

    Black oil sunflower seeds and Niger seeds will attract the two finches more than seeds without hulls, believe it or not.

    Try orange halves to attract the Hooded Orioles.

    Of course, hummingbird feeders for the resident Anna's and migrant and resident Allen's.

    Don't forget to set up a shallow bird bath!

    I have created another blog for discussing backyard birding and bird feeding. Here are two articles that might give you additional ideas.


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