San Diego is an ideal destination for birdwatchers, thanks to its varied landscape, diverse ecosystems, and mild Mediterranean climate.
From wetlands and lagoons to coastal cliffs and forests, San Diego is home to an incredible array of bird species that populate the region year-round or migrate through during certain times of the year.
In this guide, we will take a closer look at the birds that call San Diego home, including their habits, habitats, and where to spot them.
Whether you are a seasoned ornithologist or simply a nature lover interested in observing some of San Diego's most beautiful birds, this guide has something for everyone. So grab your binoculars, and let's get started.
1. Northern mockingbird
The northern mockingbird is a common fixture in North American skies. It has greyish-brown upperparts and a paler underside with white wing patches, and its distinctive long tail makes it easy to spot.
This adaptable bird can often be seen singing from the tops of trees or fences, though it rarely strays into Europe.
The species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 Systema Naturae as Turdus polyglottos - aptly named for their remarkable ability to mimic other birds' songs.
Northern mockingbirds typically live on insects, fruits, berries and seeds but they will also happily scavenge food scraps left out by humans.
With its beautiful song and striking plumage this beloved avian makes an important contribution to our environment.Scientific classification:
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2. Cactus wren
The cactus wren is an enchanting bird found in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico.
It has a unique brown plumage, with black and white spots as markings, along with a distinctive white eyebrow sweeping to its nape.
Its chest is also snow-white, whereas its belly features light brown bars that contrast nicely against other feathers.
This species holds special significance for Arizona - it was declared their state bird due to its large size compared to other US wrens.
Cactus Wrens are often seen perched atop Saguaro cacti or jumping around on desert ground searching for food such as insects like beetles or spiders.Scientific classification:
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3. American crow
The American crow is a large bird of the Corvidae family, native to most parts of North America.
It is similar in size and structure to its European counterpart, the carrion crow, as well as Eurasia's hooded crow.
The three species occupy the same ecological niche, but are distinguishable by their differences in appearance.
American crows have black feathers covering their entire body with wingspan averaging between 17-21 inches wide for males and 16-19 inches for females.
They feed on insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars; they also eat grains from fields or abandoned farms during winter months when food sources become scarcer.
In addition to feeding habits American crows can be identified by their distinct call which resembles a "caw" sound that travels long distances over open terrain making them popular among birdwatchers.Scientific classification:
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4. House finch
The House Finch is a species of finch native to western North America and has been introduced in the eastern half of the continent as well as Hawaii.
It's an average-sized finch with adults measuring 12.5 - 15 cm (5 - 6 inches) long and having wingspans between 20 – 25 cm (8 – 10 inches).
The upperparts are brown, while its underparts range from pale grayish white to yellow depending on subspecies.
Its face is streaked or spotted with reddish coloration; males typically have brighter plumage than females due to sexual dimorphism.
They're mostly found near human habitations such as farms and gardens where they feed on grains, fruits, insects etc., making them very popular among birders who want something colorful for their backyard.Scientific classification:
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5. Mourning dove
The Mourning Dove is a breathtakingly beautiful bird. It has stunning gray and brown feathers with white tipped wings, giving it an elegant appearance. Its long tail also adds to its graceful look in flight.
A symbol of peace and serenity, they are abundant across North America and can be found in gardens or open fields throughout the year.
As well as being popular game birds for hunters, they feed on grains such as wheat and millet providing important food sources for wildlife species including foxes, coyotes, skunks and raccoons.
These doves have a distinctive cooing sound that can often be heard echoing through woodlands during summer evenings making them one of nature's greatest treasures.Scientific classification:
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6. Anna's hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird is a beautiful species of bird belonging to the Trochilidae family. Native to western coastal regions of North America, it was named after Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli.
In the early 20th century, these birds bred only in northern Baja California and southern California but due to ornamental plant transplanting they can now be found across much of Pacific Coast region.
They are medium-sized with bright emerald green feathers on their back and crowns as well as rose-red patches at the throat for males which makes them quite distinguishable from other birds.
Their diet consists mainly nectar from flowers although they will occasionally feed on insects or spiders too making them important pollinators that help maintain healthy ecosystems.Scientific classification:
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7. Acorn woodpecker
The Acorn woodpecker is a medium-sized bird with an average weight of 85 grams and 8.3 inches in length. It was first described by the English naturalist William John Swainson from a specimen collected in Mexico, back in 1827.
Its scientific name, Melanerpes formicivorus, combines Latin words meaning "ant" and "-vorous".
This species has distinct black plumage all over its body except for some white patches on their wings and tail feathers which can be seen when flying or perched atop trees.
They are known to store acorns inside tree crevices as well as within bark cracks - often using them during lean times.
The acorn woodpecker is also socially active; they live together with other birds of their kind in groups called 'granaries'. Their chirps are loud enough that they can easily be heard from afar.Scientific classification:
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8. Black-chinned hummingbird
The Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) is a small but widely distributed bird. It migrates to Mexico for the winter months, and in summer can be found across much of North America.
The Black-chinned Hummingbird has been known to hybridize with several other species such as Anna's, Lucifer, Broad-tailed and Costa's hummingbirds.
It prefers open habitats like desert scrub or grasslands that provide plenty of nectar from flowers.
These birds are also capable flyers, able to reach speeds of up to 34 miles per hour. With its dazzling plumage and impressive flying skills the Black-chinned Hummingbird makes an intriguing sight for any nature enthusiast lucky enough spot one in the wild.Scientific classification:
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9. Yellow-rumped warbler
The Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) is a migratory bird species that can be found throughout North America.
It has an extensive range, from the Pacific and Atlantic coats of the US to Canada and Central America, with a concentration in northern areas during breeding season.
These birds migrate southwards for wintering grounds where they find plentiful food sources such as insects and berries.
They are easily identified by their yellow patches on either side of their tails, along with white underparts, gray back feathers and two distinct crown stripes.
One black or greyish-brown above the eyes extending towards its neck banded in yellow or light brown colouration.
Furthermore, these warblers have strong legs which allow them to cling onto branches while hunting for prey making them adept at maneuvering through tree cover quickly.
All together this makes the Yellow-rumped Warbler an attractive backyard visitor year round.Scientific classification:
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10. Lesser goldfinch
The Lesser Goldfinch is a tiny species of bird found in the Americas. It belongs to the same clade as American goldfinches and Lawrence's goldfinches, which can be identified by their males having black or rarely green foreheads.
The face appears red or yellow on these birds unlike other species in its genus Spinus sensu stricto.
They are small songbirds with short bills, brown wings and tails with white edges, grey-brown backs and olive heads.
These birds inhabit open woodlands and fields where they feed mainly on seeds from weeds such as thistle, pigweed and ragweed but also consume insects at times during breeding season for additional nutrition.
In addition to being an important part of North America’s avian ecology, these birds have been popularized through recent artwork depicting them in various poses among flowers.Scientific classification:
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11. Marbled godwit
The Marbled Godwit is a large migratory shorebird in the Scolopacidae family and is one of the largest species amongst four godwits.
It was first described by English naturalist George Edwards in 1750, as 'The Greater American Godwit'.
The bird has long legs and bill for probing mudflats for food. Their plumage varies from mottled gray to reddish or brown on their upperparts, with white underparts that contrast against it.
During breeding season they can be seen along northern prairies in North America and migrate south towards Mexico during winter months.
They are omnivorous feeders but prefer aquatic insects like crustaceans, larvae etc., which makes them an important element of wetland ecosystems across its range.Scientific classification:
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12. Black skimmer
The Black Skimmer is a seabird which belongs to the skimmer genus Rynchops and Laridae family.
It breeds in North and South America, while Northern populations migrate south for winter towards warmer climates such as the Caribbean or Pacific coasts.
The Southern American races have adapted to annual floods by making shorter migrations during this time.
These birds are easily identified with their unique long red bill that has an upper mandible longer than its lower mandible.
They feed mainly on small fish caught at night when they skim across shallow water using their beak like a knife cutting through waves of water.
Their dark grey back contrasts against white belly feathers creating beautiful patterns in flight, aiding them in catching prey easier due to its camoflauge effect above and below waters surface.Scientific classification:
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13. Mountain chickadee
The Mountain Chickadee is a small songbird in the tit family Paridae. It's distinct features include its black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray back and buffy underparts.
This bird was named after an American naturalist called William Gambel.
Recent studies have suggested that this species should be separated from other tits due to differences in their mitochondrial DNA cytochrome B sequence data as well as physical characteristics such as morphology.
They inhabit coniferous forests of North America between Alaska's Aleutian Islands all the way down to northern Mexico.
The diet of these birds consist mainly on insects but they are also known to eat seeds and berries at times.
These active little birds often join mixed-species foraging flocks during wintertime with other chickadees, nuthatches or kinglets which helps them survive colder climates by pooling resources together when food sources become sparse.Scientific classification:
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14. American bushtit
The American bushtit is a small, social bird found in the New World. It's the only species of its genus and family, Psaltriparus minimus.
First described by John Kirk Townsend in 1837, it inhabits forests and coasts from Alaska to Mexico.
With their tiny size (4-5 inches) they are easily identified by their gray or brown backs with white underparts.
Bushtits have long wings allowing them to travel quickly between trees; they form flocks that move together through branches looking for food such as insects, spiders eggs and fruit while emitting soft chirps or squeaks.
They build beautiful large pendulous nests made of mosses which hang from tree branches high above ground level where they sleep at night.
These charming birds make delightful company during outdoor activities like hiking or camping trips.Scientific classification:
|Genus||Psaltriparus Bonaparte, 1850|
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15. Black phoebe
The black phoebe is a beautiful passerine bird belonging to the tyrant-flycatcher family. It breeds from southwest Oregon and California south through Central and South America, where it can be found year-round.
However, its northern populations tend to migrate seasonally in some areas. Six subspecies of this species have been identified so far: two are occasional visitors while the others are more common residents in their range.
The adult has mainly dark grey upperparts with a white belly; juveniles may show brownish tones instead of grey ones on their back.
Its main diet consists of insects which it catches by hovering over water or flying out after them from perches near rivers or streams - hence why they're often seen around these places.Scientific classification:
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16. Cassin's kingbird
Cassin's kingbird is a large tyrant flycatcher native to western North America. It was named in honor of the American ornithologist John Cassin and first described by English naturalist William John Swainson back in 1826, with its type locality being Temascaltepec, Mexico.
These birds are generally dark gray or brown on top with lighter underparts that have yellowish tints around the throat and belly region.
They also sport long tails which they often spread wide while perched atop branches or wires looking out for prey like insects as well as small reptiles or amphibians.
Their calls can be quite loud but usually consist of two syllables: "whee-er" or sometimes "whit-chew".
In addition to their diet, Cassin's Kingbirds defend territories against other species including hawks and crows during breeding season when they raise their young before migrating southward again come wintertime.Scientific classification:
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17. Ring-billed gull
The Ring-billed Gull is a medium sized seabird that can be seen throughout North America. Its head, neck and underparts are white while its back and wings are silver gray in color.
It has a relatively short yellow bill with a dark ring around it, as well as yellow legs.
The genus name for this species of gull comes from the Latin word ‘Larus’ which referred to large sea birds or gulls; while the specific delawarensis refers to the Delaware River where these birds were first discovered.
These beautiful creatures thrive near coasts, lakeshores and other bodies of water but also have been known to inhabit urban areas such as parks close by those watersides due to their adaptability towards human habitats.Scientific classification:
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18. Costa's hummingbird
Costa's hummingbird is a species of the Trochilidae family. It inhabits arid regions in both the southwest United States and northwest Mexico, migrating to western Mexico for wintering purposes.
This bird was named by French ornithologist Jules Bourcier in 1839 after honouring François Coste, who had sent specimens to him from North America.
Costa’s hummingbirds are small birds averaging 3-3.5 inches (7–9cm) long with typically green feathers on their back and tail while underparts are usually greyish or sometimes white with purple highlights around throat area giving them an iridescent appearance when light hits it right angle.
Males also have red patches on forehead which they use as part of courtship display behavior along with singing distinctive "wheep" sound during mating season.Scientific classification:
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19. Cliff swallow
The Cliff swallow, or American cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) is a species of passerine bird belonging to the family Hirundinidae. They are commonly found in North and South America.
These birds have an unmistakable appearance with their bright orange foreheads and flame-coloured backs that make them stand out from other swallows.
Cliff swallows form large colonies when nesting on cliffsides which makes them very social creatures; they often feed together while flying around fields or rivers looking for insects to eat.
In addition, they use mud pellets to build cup-shaped nests under bridges and eaves of buildings near water sources such as lakes, rivers and marshes – usually close by human dwellings.
Overall, these fascinating birds are both beautiful to look at yet practical too — providing insect pest control services through feeding on flies and mosquitoes in return for humans’ protection - what could be better?Scientific classification:
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20. Western bluebird
The Western Bluebird is a small North American thrush that was formally described by English naturalist William John Swainson in 1832.
It has six subspecies and measures 15 to 18 cm long, with the adult male being bright blue on top and light orange-brown underneath.
Its wings have white bars which contrast against its bright plumage. The female is duller overall but retains the same wing pattern as its counterpart.
In addition, it also sports an attractive reddish patch near its bill area when breeding season arrives.
This species can be found inhabiting open woodlands, grassy meadows or agricultural areas of western America from Alaska southwards into Mexico and Guatemala where they feed mainly on insects such as beetles, flies, ants etc..
All in all this gorgeous bird adds colour to any environment.Scientific classification:
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21. Nuttall's woodpecker
Nuttall's woodpecker is a species of woodpecker named after naturalist Thomas Nuttall in 1843.
It is found mainly in oak woodlands of California and resembles the ladder-backed woodpecker genetically and physically.
The bird has black wings and tail feathers with white barring, as well as a white ventral surface decorated by small black spots.
They are quite distinct from other species due to their unique colouring; they have been known to hybridize successfully with red-naped sapsuckers when their habitats overlap.
While not considered threatened or endangered, these birds must be monitored closely to ensure that populations remain healthy across their range.Scientific classification:
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22. California scrub jay
The California scrub jay is a species of bird native to western North America. It can be found from southern British Columbia all the way down through California and western Nevada near Reno, up to west beyond the Sierra Nevada range.
This beautiful blue feathered bird was once categorized with Woodhouse's scrub jay as the "western scrub jay" along with island scrub jays.
The California Scrub Jay has distinctive features such as its greyish-blue feathers on its head, wings and tail; white cheeks; dark bill; and strong legs for perching in trees which makes it stand out among other birds in its family.Scientific classification:
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23. California towhee
The California towhee (Melozone crissalis) is a medium-sized bird belonging to the family Passerellidae.
It can be found in coastal regions of Oregon, California and Baja California Sur in Mexico.
This species has been subject to taxonomic debate - some authors place it within Fringillidae instead.
The male Californian towhee are easily identified by their greyish brown plumage with black streaks on its back, tail and wings; while females have duller colors than males but still retain the same patterned feathering as them.
Additionally, they possess an orange-colored bill and legs which adds a pop of color to their otherwise dusky appearance.Scientific classification:
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24. Hooded oriole
The Hooded Oriole is a medium-sized New World bird with bright, vibrant colours. The male has an orange to yellow body and black back, face, tail and bib.
Its wings have two white bars that stand out against the dark feathers surrounding it. The female is more of an olive colouration but also shows some yellow accents too.
Both sexes have a curved bill which is completely black in colour as well as having white wing bars on its wings for easy identification from other birds in the area.
It typically lives in open woodlands or tropical areas where there are plenty of trees providing food sources such as insects and fruit for them to eat while they perch amongst their branches during nesting season.Scientific classification:
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25. Red-shouldered hawk
The red-shouldered hawk, also known as Buteo lineatus, is a medium-sized bird of prey found in eastern North America and along the coast of California and northern to northeastern-central Mexico.
While many of these hawks are permanent residents within their range, northern populations do migrate, with most traveling to central Mexico.
The species faces numerous threats to its survival, with deforestation being a primary issue.
Despite the many challenges they face, these birds are an important part of their ecosystems, primarily feeding on rodents, small mammals, and amphibians.
In addition to their hunting capabilities, these hawks are known for their striking appearance, featuring reddish brown shoulder feathers and bold black and white striped wings.
Overall, the red-shouldered hawk is a fascinating and important bird that plays a vital role in its surroundings.Scientific classification:
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26. Ridgway's rail
Ridgway's rail is a species of bird that is classified as near-threatened. They can be found mainly along the Pacific Coast of North America, from San Francisco Bay Area to southern Baja California.
Their habitat also includes some regions of the Gulf of California. These chicken-sized birds are members of the rail family, Rallidae, and are not known for their flying ability.
They are a highly valued species and their common name and Latin binomial pay tribute to American ornithologist Robert Ridgway.
Despite being near-threatened, conservation efforts have been able to stabilize populations and control threats to their habitat.Scientific classification: