May 14th, 2012 · by Garrison Frost

For the last several weeks, we’ve been talking in this space about spring migration, the great spectacle of birds moving over great distances. But during this whole period, we’ve been ever mindful of the great California birds that aren’t going anywhere this spring. Sure, they may shift locally from one place to another to set up a nest, but in the larger sense, they are nonmigratory. This isn’t to say that these birds are not part of the great Pacific Flyway. Rather, they represent some of the greatest birds of the flyway. It’s just that for various biological reasons, they are not disposed to head off to Alaska or South America. In other words, they’re stickin’. Now the list of these birds is pretty long, so we asked a few of our colleagues to name their favorites. Here are just a few that came to our heads — we’d love to hear about your favorite nonmigratory birds (photo by Clendennen/USFWS):

California Condor

This was our obvious first choice. While not our state bird (that title goes to the California Quail), the California Condor is nonetheless the state’s uber-bird. The Big Daddy. The California Condor is also Audubon California’s current Bird of the Year, awarded the title by an online vote late last year. The endangered condor is also a bird that Audubon California has been working to protect for decades through a variety of strategies. Most recently, our efforts have centered around the removal of lead from its range.

Tricolored Blackbird

While not necessarily known to every Californian, the Tricolored Blackbird is nonetheless one of the great California birds. Nearly 95 percent of the entire global population of the bird lives in the Golden State, so we’ve got something of a duty to protect this increasingly rare species. You’ll find it in the Central Valley, coastal valleys, and in some parts of Southern California. A hundred years ago, Tricolored Blackbirds numbered in the millions, but now there are fewer than 300,000. Audubon California recently partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to strike agreements with farmers to protect breeding colonies. We’re also trying to create new habitat for these birds away from farms. You can help. (photo by Martin Meyers)

Yellow-billed Magpie

The Yellow-billed Magpie lives only in California, in California’s Central Valley and coastal ranges in oak savannah woodlands and other similar habitats. It is certainly one of California’s most striking birds, not just for its looks, but its personality. It’s a popular bird, and one that we believe is enjoying a resurgence following recent dramatic losses due to West Nile Virus. It was Audubon California’s first Bird of the Year. (photo by Brian Sullivan)

California Thrasher

We just love everything about the California Thrasher — it cuts a cool profile and has a great take-no-prisoners name. Found only in California and Baja, the California Thrasher has always been popular among birders and nature enthusiasts. (photo by Peter LaTourrette)

Common Raven

Many birds have been insulted with the prefix “Common,” but perhaps none so much as the Raven. Perhaps no other species in California engenders such a wide array of emotions as this dark wonder. Sure, it can be a terror, but the more you know about it, the more there is to be impressed with. It is an incredibly smart creature, highly adaptable, and really beautiful when you stop and look at it. And then there was that whole Edgar Allen Poe thing.


And you thought this list would only include the tough birds. We’re also big fans of the Bushtit, a spry little songbird that creates the most intriguing hanging nests.

Great Gray Owl

There are owls, and then there’s the Great Gray Owl. For the most part its North American habitat includes Canada and the northern reaches of the United States, but California has a distinct population in our Sierra Nevada that has proven quite intriguing in recent year. Many believe that California’s Great Grays may actually represent a unique subspecies of the bird. We’re talking about fewer than 300 individuals, and these birds are increasingly in need of our help. Audubon California has been speaking with public agencies and other partners to figure out the best way to support California’s few Great Gray Owls. (photo by Brian Scott)


Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Birding · California Condor · Endangered Species Act · Pacific Flyway · Pacific Migration · spring migration · Tricolored Blackbird · Yellow-billed Magpie

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Stephanie Manning

    Thanks so much for mentioning the Common Raven. A raven family has moved in across the street from our urban apt. building near Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Its huge nest is on top of a sixth story bay window of a modern office building. I knew it was nearby by the daily low caws at dawn but only a week ago found the nest. And oh goodness, there were two babies! We have been watching and teaching others in the ‘hood to keep an eye on these wonderful neighbors. The babies are Big and will fledge soon.

  • Vivian Brown

    I also watch birds & try to track the new migrating species . When I’m lucky enough I can get pictures too !!