Grab a pair of binoculars — any old pair — and head out to the back yard or a nearby park. These birds are common in the San Fernando Valley. If you’re not yet a birder and want to see why so many people enjoy this pastime, start looking closer at the “easy” birds that are all around. Once you start to notice how different they are from one another and how many special marks, stripes, colors and quirks they display, you’ll begin to appreciate that birds are an easy and fun way to connect with wildlife that doesn’t involve paying for an African safari.
(FOUR-LETTER CODES ARE “ALPHA” CODES USED BY BIRDERS/ORNITHOLOGISTS FOR BREVITY’S SAKE).
NOTE THAT DURING NON-BREEDING SEASON, MANY OF THE MOST VISIBLE CHARACTERISTICS THAT DIFFERENTIATE MALE BIRDS OF SIMILAR SIZE/SHAPE CAN BE MUTED OR ABSENT.
Click or tap on all photos to enlarge!
House Sparrow (HOSP)
Length: 5.5″ to 6.5″ Weight: 1.4 oz
House Finch (HOFI)
Length: 6″ Weight: 1 oz.
California Towhee (CALT)
Length: 9″ Weight: 2 oz
California Scrub Jay (CASJ)
Length 11″ Weight 2.8 oz
Length 3.5″ to 4″ Weight 0.1 oz (!!)
Length 4.5″ to 5″ Weight 3.5 – 4 oz
Spotted Towhee (SPTO)
Length 7″ to 7.5″ Weight 1.4 oz
Wrens (HOWR, CANW and BEWR)
Length 4.5″ to 5.25″ Weight 0.4 to 0.5 oz
(Northern) Mockingbird (NOMO)
Length 10″ Weight 2 oz
Length 4.5″ Weight 0.2 oz
Mourning Dove (MODO)
Length 12″ Weight 4 oz to 6 oz
Pigeons (ROPI and BTPI)
ROPI Length: 12.5 in. Weight: 9 oz
BTPI Length: 15 in. Weight: 13 oz
Song Sparrow (SOSP)
Length 6″ to 7.5″ Weight 0.7 oz
Black Phoebe (BLPH)
Length 6″ to 7″ Weight 0.7 oz
American Robin (Redbreast) (AMRO)
Length 10″ Weight 1.7 oz
Length 7″ to 10.5″ Weight 1 oz to 2.5 oz
Bluebirds (Western WEBL, Mountain MOBL)
Length 7″ to 7.75″ Weight 1 oz
Oak Titmouse (OATI)
Length: 5.5 in. Weight: 0.55 oz.
Length: 6.25 in. Weight: 0.67 oz.
Is it a Raven (CORA)…or a Crow (AMCR)?
Raven Length: 24 in. Weight 42-44 oz.
Crow Length 17.5 in. Weight 16 oz.
Cooper’s Hawk (COHA) Length: 14-21 in. Weight: 12-16 oz.
Red-tailed Hawk (RTHA) Length: 19-25 in. Weight: 35-38 oz.
Red-shouldered Hawk (RSHA) Length: 17-24 in. Weight: 17-22 oz.
Occasional, Uncommon But Not Rare
There are plenty of birds who aren’t usually seen in urban yards or parks. On the other hand, they do appear from time to time. Sometimes it’s because they are particularly shy and only come out of hiding to look for a mate, or because there simply aren’t many of them in our area. Some migratory individuals, because our SoCal weather is so balmy, decide to stick around all year one year, or move in permanently. Either way such birds are here and they’re rewarding to see and identify. (Remember, you can click on these images to enlarge them.)
Seasonal Visitors to Southern California
Birds move around. Some migrate over hard-to-believe distances, others shift between close-together mountains and valleys. Either way, driven by seasons, by the availability of food or absence of predators for breeding, birds move around. This page is not concerned with migratory birds who are seen passing through on their way to somewhere else; these are birds that will show up in your backyard or in the park because they’re here for the winter, or here for the spring and summer.
Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles (HOOR & BUOR)
HOOR Length: 7-8 in. Weight 0.8 oz.
BUOR Length: 7.5-8.5 in. Weight 1.3 oz.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (YRWA)
Length 5.5 in. Weight 0.5 oz
Length: 4.25 in. Weight: 0.22 oz.
Length: 7 in. Weight: 1 oz.
If you see something you don’t recognize in your yard or a park don’t hesitate to email San Fernando Valley Audubon at BirdIdentify@sfvaudubon.org — we’ll do our best to tell you what you’ve seen! Please provide general location, and a photo is pretty essential!