Backyard Birding Episode 2: Habitats

The incredible variation in L.A. County’s landscape also means there’s an incredible variety of birds.

Screenshot of opening card from BYBE2 Video

Real estate is tight in L.A.—unless you’re a bird.

Los Angeles is one of the few places in the world where you can go surfing in the morning, skiing in the afternoon and maybe top off the day camping in the desert. Every acre of our diverse landscape hosts a bevy of equally interesting birds, but you don't have to leave the block to get an eye full of avian Angelenos—you just have to keep your eyes open. Here are just some of the birds you might find in the city. 

Black phoebe

These black songbirds can be found from Oregon all the way to Argentina. Pleasingly plump, black phoebes' distinct coloration, black-crested head (which can look something like a little mohawk), and white belly, make them easy to spot. They build mud nests under eaves and overhangs, typically close to water. 

Look for black phoebes (Sayornis nigricans) on low perches. 
Image by iNaturalist user andy71

European starling

With more than a billion European starlings worldwide, it's easy to miss how surprisingly beautiful these birds are if you look closely. Their dark feathers can have a sheen reflecting greens and purple, and when they get their winter white spots the effect is pretty galactic. You can often see them walking zig-zag paths across patches of grass.

European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were intentionally introduced to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in 1890 who wanted all the birds the bard ever mentioned to live in the U.S.  Starlings are now common across the continent, all descended from those 100 birds released in New York's Central Park.
Image by iNaturalist use radrat


Peregrine falcon

It pays to be high if you're a raptor like the peregrine falcon. You can see them perched on pretty much anything tall: skyscrapers, power pylons, water towers, anything where they can get a view of the smaller birds they're hoping to get the drop on. 

Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) are expert pigeon hunters, snagging medium-sized birds in spectacular swift dives called 'stoops'. You can see them around Los Angeles County all year long.
Image by iNaturalist user labradorite_luster

No matter where you look in Los Angeles, you're likely to see something feathered. These are just three of the birds you're likely to notice if you keep your eyes open. If you're taking a hike or just hiking up the street to catch the bus, avian Angelenos are probably perched and pecking somewhere. Whatever you see, be sure to share it on iNaturalist to help scientists better understand what's happening in the world of birds. 

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