Birds are a common sight in California, and there are many different species that can be seen in the city. From pigeons to falcons to seagulls, there is plenty to see.
Below we’ll niche down on one city in California; birds in San Francisco. Our list includes birds of prey, songbirds, blackbirds and more. So if you are looking to go bird watching in the San Francisco bay area or at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the list below is perfect for you.
List of Birds in San Francisco
- 1. Ruddy Duck
- 2. Dark-eyed Junco
- 3. California Condor
- 4. American Redstart
- 5. Peregrine Falcon
- 6. American Wigeon
- 7. Bufflehead
- 8. California Quail
- 9. California Towhee
- 10. Yellow-headed Blackbird
- 11. Cedar Waxwing
- 12. Flammulated Owl
- 13. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
- 14. California Scrub-jay
- 15. Greater Roadrunner
- 16. California Gull
- 17. Anna’s Hummingbird
- 18. Cooper’s Hawk
1. Ruddy Duck
The ruddy duck is a small waterfowl that is found all year round in San Francisco.
The male ruddy duck is easily recognizable by its bright blue bill and reddish-brown body. It has a black head and white cheeks. In contrast, female ruddy ducks are brownish and dull with a dark bill. Immature ducks are also dull. Both sexes have dark eyes and body mass ranges 10.6-30 oz.
The ruddy duck is a member of the Anatidae family, which includes ducks, geese, and swans. These ducks are typically silent but during breeding season you may hear the male produce low belch-like sounds.
2. Dark-eyed Junco
Another common bird in San Francisco is the dark-eyed junco. Junco hyemalis is a small sparrow and here’s its identifying plumage.
The males have dark feathers on their upperparts and are whitish below. Female Juncos in this area are grayish brown. Both sexes have short pink bills.
These common birds often come to feeders in backyards during winter. The dark-eyed junco is a ground nester, making its nest on the ground under logs or bushes. The female lays three to seven eggs, which are incubated for 12 to 14 days. Juvenile dark-eyes juncos leave the nest after 14-16 days.
These birds eat mostly insects in the summer and seeds in the winter. In winter, they often scratch through the snow to find seeds on the ground.
3. California Condor
California condors are some of the rarest birds in the world. As of 2020, there are a recorded 504 birds.
With a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, it is also one of the largest birds of prey in San Francisco. These magnificent creatures are all black with striking white underwings. Notice their naked heads and pale bills.
How long does a Condor live? The lifespan of the California Condor is about 50 years and they can live up to two weeks without food. Indeed, they are magnificent birds.
4. American Redstart
One of the smallest North American warbler, the American redstart, is not a common bird in California but you may come across a few birds in the East Bay area.
It is easily identified by its striking plumage. The male has a black body with vivid orange patches on its wings, sides and tail; the female is gray with white belly and yellow on its sides. Both sexes have short bibs and gray feet.
American redstarts are found in woodlands mostly in the eastern states. They build their nests on trees or shrubs, often using spider webs to bind the leaves together. These warblers are insectivores, eating mostly caterpillars and other small insects.
5. Peregrine Falcon
Another all-year round resident of San Francisco is the peregrine falcon. Found in large numbers across North America, here’s how to identify.
These falcons are larger than other members of their family in North America. An adult is typically 14.2-19.3 inches long and spans up to 43.3 inches. They have blue-gray feathers on their upperparts, a white breast, and white belly with dark bars. Note their yellow feet and eyerings.
Peregrine falcons are some of the most skilled hunters in the wild. These birds can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour when diving for their prey.
These falcons are monogamous and typically build their nests on ledges or in crevices. The female will lay 3-4 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Peregrine falcons are endangered due to pesticides and other toxins that have affected their populations.
6. American Wigeon
American wigeon is a dabbling duck that is a winter bird of San Francisco. It is also called the baldpate.
The American wigeon is a member of the genus Mareca. Males are larger than females and have a brownish-gray head and cinnamon body. Notice the stunning green stripe on their head and thick white black-tipped bill.
Females have a brown-gray head and a cinnamon body. The American wigeon feeds on aquatic plants and insects. They nest near water in marshes or wetlands.
Buffleheads are winter birds of San Francisco. These small sea ducks are easy to identify.
The Bufflehead gets its name from its large, bulbous head, which is hard to miss. The male sea duck is black and white, with a purple-green face. Females are gray and white. Both sexes have dark wide bills.
Buffleheads are excellent swimmers and divers, and they are often seen swimming in formation with other ducks. They eat small fish, crustaceans, and insects. Like ruddy ducks, they are also quiet.
8. California Quail
California quails or valley quails, are small birds that are native to San Francisco California.
It is a plump bird with a short tail and a curved crest on its head. The male has gray and brown plumage, a black throat and white stripes on their head. Females are brownish gray and duller. These birds are usually found in pairs or in a small flock.
The diet of the California quail consists of seeds, insects, and berries. These birds use their strong legs to scratch at the ground to find food. They also drink water from puddles or streams.
These birds nest in depressions. The female lays up to 16 eggs per clutch, and incubates them for about three weeks.
9. California Towhee
The California towhee is a common bird in San Francisco. It is a member of the sparrow family and is closely related to the lark bunting.
The bird is easily recognizable by its rusty brown plumage. It is about 8.3-9.8 inches in length; slightly larger than the Baltimore oriole.
The towhee’s natural habitat is in shrubland or chaparral, but the bird can also be found in urban areas. It is a ground-dwelling bird and forages for food on the ground. The diet of this bird species consists of insects and spiders.
10. Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed blackbirds are not common in San Francisco. However, during migration, you can spot a few of them and here are some of their unique characteristics.
I think yellow-headed birds are one of the most beautiful and very distinctive blackbirds. They have simple plumage; a striking yellow head, neck and breast and black body. The female is dark brown with some yellow on her head.
In the summer, the male yellow-headed blackbird performs an aerial display during which he dives and swoops while singing a loud, booming song. This courtship ritual attracts females to his nesting territory. The yellow-headed blackbird nests in marshes and wetlands, building a cup nest out of reeds and grasses.
11. Cedar Waxwing
In the early days of summer, flocks of cedar waxwings descend on trees and shrubs, devouring berries with abandon. These striking birds are a welcome sight after a long winter, and their cheerful song brings a touch of warmth to the still-cool air.
These pretty birds have striking brown heads with black masks. Its lower back and wings are gray while the belly is pale yellow. Notice the gray yellow-tipped tail. Cedar waxwings are social birds, often seen in small flocks as they forage for food or bathing in streams.
They are most active during the day, when their loud calls and acrobatic flight make them hard to miss. These cute birds will even eat from your hand!
While they may look like they’re all fun and games, cedar waxwings play an important role in the ecosystem. By eating berries and dispersing seeds, they help spread plant species throughout their range. So next time you see a cedar waxwing, take a moment to appreciate these beautiful birds.
12. Flammulated Owl
Another breeder in San Francisco is the flammulated owl. It is the only member of genus psiloscops.
Psiloscops flammeolus or the flammulated owl is a small owl that is a member of the true owls, or Strigidae. An adult measures about 6 inches in length, slightly larger than a house finch, and has a wingspan of 14 inches.
It is brown-gray with streaks. Note the cute ear tufts. The Flammulated owl feeds primarily on insects, crickets, moths, beetles, but will also take small mammals and birds.
Flammulated owls breed in coniferous forests or Mountain forests. It nests in tree cavities, often using old woodpecker holes. The female lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for 24 days.
13. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadees are small birds with a strong personality. Found in forests throughout the Pacific Northwest, these spunky little birds are a delight to watch as they flit from branch to branch in search of insects.
Adults have large black heads and almost no necks, white cheeks, rich brown backs and whitish belly. Note their rounded wings. Chestnut-backed chickadees are about 3.9-4.7 inches in length with narrow tails.
These lively little birds are also known for their boldness, often approaching humans in hopes of grabbing a tidbit to eat. So if you’re lucky enough to spot a Chestnut-backed Chickadee in your backyard, be sure to have some birdseed on hand to make a new friend!
14. California Scrub-jay
There are several birds that are native to California and this scrub-jay is a great example. It is a corvidae member, in the same family as crows and ravens.
It is a small to medium-sized bird with blue gray plumage and white throat. Notice the gorgeous blue necklace and black mask. The legs and feet are black.
The California scrub-jay occurs in open habitats with scattered trees, such as oak woodlands, chaparral, and pinyon-juniper woodland. It nests close to the ground or man-made nest boxes. It forages on the ground or in trees for insects, fruits, and other small prey items.
The California scrub-jay is common throughout its range which includes California.
15. Greater Roadrunner
Born to run. The greater roadrunner is a large, long-legged bird with a long tail and a distinctive head crest. It is the only member of the genus Geococcyx and is pretty common in San Francisco.
They have long, slender bodies about 20-24 inches in length. They are brown and sport heavy dark streaks. Note the buffy belly.
The greater roadrunner is an opportunistic omnivore, eating a wide variety of reptiles including rattlesnakes and scorpions, and seeds and fruits during winter. Learn more about roadrunners.
16. California Gull
Know any waterbirds of San Francisco? Being in the Pacific Coast means this area is home to a lot of sea birds and the California gull is found in large numbers in this area.
It is a medium-sized gull which is found during its non-breeding months in this area. The California gull is a white-headed bird with a light gray back and wings, and a black terminal tail band.
Its bill is yellow with a red spot near the tip, and its legs are yellowish. Adults are about 18.5-21.3 inches in length.
17. Anna’s Hummingbird
Slightly larger than the smallest bird, Anna’s hummingbird is a stunning bird that I think every bird watcher needs to watch.
They are only 3-4 inches long and weigh less than an ounce! The males are brightly colored with green backs, grayish chests, and reddish throats. Females are usually grayish-green with some pinkish throat feathers.
They are found all-year round in much of California. These birds love open areas with flowers, such as gardens, parks, and deserts. They feed on nectar from flowers using their long tongues.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are amazing flyers! Up to 60 miles per hour!
18. Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawks are one of the top predators in CA. These birds of prey are known for their hunting prowess, and they can take down animals much larger than themselves.
Cooper’s Hawks are also known for their striking appearance, with their dark plumage and red eyes. These birds are named for their habit of stalking their prey, much like a fox or a coyote. They will perch in a tree or on a power line, waiting for an opportunity to strike. When they see their chance, they will swoop down and grab their prey with their powerful talons.
Cooper’s Hawks are dangerous predators, but they are also beautiful creatures.
What birds are common in San Francisco?
Common birds of San Francisco California include cooper’s hawk, Anna’s hummingbird, ruddy ducks, pigeons, American robins, and rare birds like California Condor.
Are there cranes in San Francisco?
Sandhill crane is a frequent visitor in San Francisco.
What are the black birds in San Francisco?
Common blackbirds include yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbird, and brewer’s blackbird.
Are there ospreys in San Francisco?
Yes, there are ospreys in San Francisco! These magnificent birds of prey can often be seen soaring over the Bay or perching atop one of the city’s many bridges. Also, bird watchers have noticed an increase in the number of their nests, signifying an increase in the number of ospreys in San Francisco.
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