Thank you to everyone who voted for their city (remember this list is purely derived from votes), we really delighted in reading every response. It’s good to know that so many California cities are providing a safe place for birds. Without further ado, here are the top five most bird-friendly cities:
- San Francisco — The City by the Bay is well known for its environmental consciousness (composting is mandated, plastic bags banned, and rodenticides discouraged) and proximity to open space; perhaps that is why it received votes from those who identified as not even living there. Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Bay Area’s local chapter is another reason many cited SF. Voters referenced the organization’s ability to install a Lights Out program for municipal buildings (the first such program in the state), its awesome bird walks, lectures, and volunteer restoration opportunities. As for iconic birds, the parrots of Telegraph Hill; although not native, made the list, as did gulls, Red-tail Hawks, owls, and more. In fact voter Richard claims SF is “always in the top two or three cities for number of bird species sighted each year.”
- San Diego — One of the most southern Californian cities almost kicked San Francisco out of the lead. Voters came out in droves to brag about the San Diego Audubon Society. Voter Rebecca shared that the chapter, “owns and operates two wildlife sanctuaries in San Diego County, their Education Program involved almost 2000 students in outdoor education, the Conservation Program held 25 restoration events resulting in the donation of over 3000 volunteer hours, and the Outreach Program led over 50 guided walks to birding locations throughout San Diego.” Iconic birds for the city vary as does the type of habitat found in the state’s second largest city, but people seem to have a special penchant for the Brown Pelican.
- Sacramento — Known affectionately to residents as the City of Trees, the city protects and takes care of its trees for its avian dwellers. There six National Wildlife Refuges within 75 miles of Sacramento where city-folk can flock to with binoculars in hand. Yellow-billed Magpies were the clear choice for Sacramento’s iconic bird and boy do residents like their birds. One voter claimed that “ALL of my friends are into birds.” The local paper, The Sacramento Bee, was cited as being one of birding’s biggest boosters in the state. One of the highlights of Sacramento bird-lovers’ year is the Sacramento Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, a very inclusive bird count that is family-friendly.
- Arcata — A little city that could! One of the northernmost cities in California, Arcata sure is a bit batty for birds. The city even cosponsors a local rare bird alert phone message line with the Redwood Region Audubon Society. Along with tracking birds, the chapter and city have sponsored Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival for the past 20 years. Voter Kristine boasts that her city is bird-friendly because, “Arcata has an Open Space Protection Program, which designates the open fields and waterways surrounding Arcata’s downtown as wildlife habitats and cultural sites. This means that development cannot occur in these spaces, leaving them wide open for all of our gorgeous birds to enjoy.” Not surprisingly, the iconic bird for this city is the Marbled Godwit.
- Long Beach — This SoCal city was propelled to the top five by its residents’ love of the El Dorado Audubon Society. Voter Jill claims her chapter is, “home to many highly skilled birders, conservationists, and amazing photographers. Several members were active participants in Long Beach’s Ponds, Streams, and Wetlands Task Force from which the City’s Parks Maintenance managers developed the no tree trimming during nesting season policy, installed fishing line recycling bins, and covered trash cans near ponds.” The chapter is even designing a cell phone app-led bird walk around a popular duck pond! Voters were split on the city’s iconic birds, but it was clear that herons and raptors are favorites.