Birds can tell us a lot about nature in the city. Living in northeast LA, we are lucky to have some incredible places for birds where we see them on nearly a daily basis. The Los Angeles River coupled with our open hillsides, parkland, and neighborhoods all provide places for our local birds to find food and shelter.
We have many species of birds that live here year round, while some only spend the winters or summers here, others just pass through. Right now, in the dead of winter, we have “winter resident” birds who migrated here from the north along the Pacific Flyway, to take advantage our mild climate. Here are three you might see in your neighborhood or on a walk in the park:
White-crowned Sparrow : People frequently call our Audubon Center to identify the birds they see. Sometimes their description is good … sometimes it’s not. I’ll never forget the call we got where the guy said, “Well, it’s about the size of a sparrow and it has black and white stripes on the top of its head.” That’s just about the best way to describe the White-crowned Sparrow. BTW: The females don’t have the bold black and white; their coloring is brown and gray. When the males and females flock together, you can also look for a pinkish bill on both. You’ll not only see them hopping around the ground in some of LA’s more natural parks, but also in neighborhoods.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (also sparrow sized!): These little guys are affectionately known as “butter-butts” because it looks like they sat in yellow butter, leaving a little yellow patch on their rump. If you look closely, you will also see yellow patches on the bird’s throat and sides. Look for the butter-butt flitting in tree or bush branches where they look for fruit and bugs, and if they’re lucky, catching bugs on the wing.
Cedar Waxwing (a little bigger than a sparrow): If you hear a high-pitched whistling overhead, look up! You could see a small flock of undulating flying Cedar Waxwings above. If you are patient, you may get a chance to see them feeding on some of our native Toyons’ berries. To me, they look like they are carved out of soap, their feathers are SO smooth. They are mostly greyish tan, with a black mask, and a cool looking fauxhawk. But the most striking features are the ends of the wings that look like they were dipped in bright red wax and the end of the tail that was dipped in yellow.
You can help Audubon scientists know more about the birds in our communities by participating in the Great Backyard Birdcount, 2/15-18. Learn more here: http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/