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List of California birds

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List of California birds

The California quail is the official state bird of California.

This list of birds of California is a comprehensive listing of all the bird species seen naturally in the U.S. state of California as determined by the California Birds Records Committee (CBRC).

As of 2009, there are 641 species on this list. Fifteen of these species are introduced (I)–species that are non-native to California but now have established populations. Two of these species are extirpated (E)–species that are native to California but no longer have established populations there (they still do in other places). Birds marked with an asterisk (*) are currently under review by the CBRC. The CBRC states the following about birds under review:

The California Bird Records Committee solicits information on all occurrences in California of the 180 species on this Review List, as well as species unrecorded in California. In general, review species average four or fewer occurrences per year in California, and have been recorded fewer than 100 times.

This list is presented in taxonomic order and follows The Check-list of North American Birds (7th ed., 1998), published by the American Ornithologists' Union. The table of contents is grouped into passerines (the largest order of birds) and non-passerines. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family accounts.

Ducks, geese and swans

Order: Anseriformes. Family: Anatidae

The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, bills which are flattened to a greater or lesser extent, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to special oils.

Canada goose
American wigeon

Partridges, grouse, turkeys and Old World quail

Order: Galliformes. Family: Phasianidae

Phasianidae consists of the pheasants and their allies, including partridges, grouse, turkeys and Old World quail. These are terrestrial species, variable in size but generally plump, with broad relatively short wings. Many species are gamebirds or have been domesticated as a food source for humans.

New World quail

Order: Galliformes. Family: Odontophoridae

The New World quails are small, plump terrestrial birds only distantly related to the quails of the Old World, but named for their similar appearance and habits.

Loons

Order: Gaviiformes. Family: Gaviidae

Loons are aquatic birds, the size of a large duck, to which they are unrelated. Their plumage is largely gray or black, and they have spear-shaped bills. Loons swim well and fly adequately, but, because their legs are placed towards the rear of the body, are almost hopeless on land.

Grebes

Order: Podicipediformes. Family: Podicipedidae

Red-necked grebe

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes, and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land.

Albatrosses

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Diomedeidae

The albatrosses are amongst the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses from the genus Diomedea have the largest wingspans of any extant birds.

Shearwaters and petrels

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Procellariidae

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterized by united nostrils with medium septum, and a long outer functional primary.

Northern fulmar

Storm-petrels

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Hydrobatidae

Wilson's storm petrel

The storm-petrels are the smallest seabirds, relatives of the petrels, feeding on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like.

Tropicbirds

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their long wings have black markings, as does the head.

Boobies and gannets

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Sulidae

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium-large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish.

Pelicans

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Pelecanidae

Pelicans are very large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. Like other birds in the order Pelecaniformes, they have four webbed toes.

Cormorants

Double-crested cormorant

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Cormorants are medium-to-large aquatic birds, usually with mainly dark plumage and areas of colored skin on the face. The bill is long, thin and sharply hooked. Their feet are four-toed and webbed, a distinguishing feature among the Pelecaniformes order.

Darters

Darters are cormorant-like water birds with very long necks and long, straight beaks. They often swim with only the neck above water, and are fish-eaters.

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Anhingidae

Frigatebirds

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Fregatidae

Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black or black-and-white, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have inflatable colored throat pouches. They do not swim or walk, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week.

Bitterns, herons and egrets

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Ardeidae

Great blue heron

The Ardeidae family contains the herons, egrets and bitterns. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more secretive. Unlike other long necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted.

Ibises and spoonbills

Order: Pelenaciformes. Family: Threskiornithidae

Storks

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Ciconiidae

Storks are large, heavy, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills and wide wingspans. They lack the powder down that other wading birds such as herons, spoonbills and ibises use to clean off fish slime. Storks lack a pharynx and are mute.

New World vultures

California condor

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Cathartidae

The New World vultures are not closely related to Old World vultures, but superficially resemble them because of convergent evolution. Like the Old World vultures, they are scavengers. However, unlike Old World vultures, which find carcasses by sight, New World vultures have a good sense of smell with which they locate carcasses.

Osprey

Osprey

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Pandionidae

Hawks, kites and eagles

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Accipitridae

The family Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey and includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.

Caracaras and falcons

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Falconidae

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey, notably the falcons and caracaras. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons.

Rails, gallinules and coots

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Rallidae

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers.

American coot

Cranes

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Gruidae

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances".

Lapwings and plovers

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Charadriidae

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water.

Killdeer

Oystercatchers

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Haematopodidae

The oystercatchers are large, obvious and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prising open molluscs.

Stilts and avocets

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills.

Sandpipers, curlews, stints, godwits, snipes and phalaropes

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Scolopacidae

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of legs and bills enable multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.

Semipalmated sandpiper
Willet

Skuas

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Stercorariidae

Gulls, terns and skimmers

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Laridae

Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds and includes gulls, terns, kittiwakes and skimmers. They are typically gray or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet.

Western gull

Auks, murres and puffins

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Alcidae

Alcids are superficially similar to penguins due to their black-and-white colors, their upright posture and some of their habits, however they are not related to the penguins at all and are able to fly. Auks live on the open sea, only deliberately coming ashore to nest.

Tufted puffin

Pigeons and doves

Order: Columbiformes Family: Columbidae

Mourning dove

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere.

Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots

Order: Psittaciformes Family: Psittacidae

Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back.

(List based on facts from the California Parrot Project. All birds of the Psittaciformes are introduced to California)

Cuckoos, roadrunners and anis

Order: Cuculiformes Family: Cuculidae

Greater roadrunner

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. Unlike the cuckoo species of the Old World, North American cuckoos are not brood parasites.

Barn owls

Order: Strigiformes Family: Tytonidae

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons.

Typical owls

Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae

Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk.

Barred owl

Nightjars

Order: Caprimulgiformes Family: Caprimulgidae

Common nighthawk, drawn in 1859

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves.

Swifts

Order: Apodiformes Family: Apodidae

The swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang.

Hummingbirds

Order: Apodiformes Family: Trochilidae

Hummingbirds are small birds capable of hovering in mid-air due to the rapid flapping of their wings. They are the only birds that can fly backwards.

Black-chinned hummingbird

Kingfishers

Order: Coraciiformes Family: Cerylidae

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails.

Woodpeckers, sapsuckers and flickers

Order: Piciformes Family: Picidae

Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks.

Hairy woodpecker

Tyrant flycatchers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Tyrannidae

Tyrant flycatchers are Passerine birds which occur throughout North and South America. They superficially resemble the Old World flycatchers, but are more robust and have stronger bills. They do not have the sophisticated vocal capabilities of the songbirds. Most, but not all, are rather plain. As the name implies, most are insectivorous.

Shrikes

Northern shrike

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Laniidae

Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey.

Vireos

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Vireonidae

The vireos are a group of small to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World. They are typically greenish in color and resemble wood warblers apart from their heavier bills.

Jays, crows, magpies and ravens

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Corvidae

Western scrub jay

The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes. Some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence.

Larks

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Alaudidae

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds.

Swallows and martins

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Hirundinidae

Barn swallow

The Hirundinidae family is a group of passerines characterized by their adaptation to aerial feeding. These adaptations include a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base.

Chickadees and titmice

Black-capped chickadee

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Paridae

The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects.

Verdin

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Remizidae

Bushtits

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Aegithalidae

Nuthatches

White-breasted nuthatch

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Sittidae

Nuthatches are small woodland birds. They have the unusual ability to climb down trees head first, unlike other birds which can only go upwards. Nuthatches have big heads, short tails and powerful bills and feet.

Treecreepers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Certhiidae

Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees.

Wrens

Rock wren

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Troglodytidae

Wrens are small and inconspicuous birds, except for their loud songs. They have short wings and thin down-turned bills. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous.

Dippers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Cinclidae

Kinglets

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Regulidae

The kinglets are a small family of birds which resemble the titmice. They are very small insectivorous birds in the genus Regulus. The adults have colored crowns, giving rise to their name.

Megaluridae

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Megaluridae

Phylloscopidae

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Phylloscopidae

Gnatcatchers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Polioptilidae

Old World flycatchers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Muscicapidae

Thrushes

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Turdidae

The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly but not exclusively in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs.

Western bluebird

Babblers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Timaliidae

Mockingbirds and thrashers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Mimidae

The mimids are a family of passerine birds which includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers and the New World catbirds. These birds are notable for their vocalization, especially their remarkable ability to mimic a wide variety of birds and other sounds heard outdoors. The species tend towards dull grays and browns in their appearance.

Northern mockingbird

Starlings

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Sturnidae

Starlings are small to medium-sized Old World passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct and most are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. The plumage of several species is dark with a metallic sheen.

Wagtails and pipits

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Motacillidae

American pipit

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country.

Waxwings

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Bombycillidae

The waxwings are a group of passerine birds characterized by soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax, and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter.

Silky-flycatchers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Ptiliogonatidae

Longspurs and snow buntings

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Calcariidae

Wood-warblers

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Parulidae

The wood warblers are a group of small often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal, but some are more terrestrial. Most members of this family are insectivores.

Yellow warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler

American sparrows, towhees, juncos and longspurs

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Emberizidae

Emberizidae is a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. There are species 275 world wide, 60 North American species and 38 Californian species.

Song sparrow

Cardinals, saltators and grosbeaks

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Cardinalidae

The cardinals are a family of robust, seed-eating birds, with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinct plumages.

Lazuli bunting

Blackbirds, meadowlarks, cowbirds, grackles and orioles

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Icteridae

The icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World and include the grackles, New World blackbirds and New World orioles. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red.

Western meadowlark

Finches

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Fringillidae

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have 12 tail feathers and 9 primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well.

Cassin's finch

Old World sparrows

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Passeridae

Old World sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small plump brownish or grayish birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects.

See also

References

  • Official California Checklist by the California Bird Records Committee
  • The Check-list of North American Birds, 7th edition, 1998, published by the American Ornithologists' Union (a recognized source on the taxonomy of birds found in North America)


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