9 Must-See Birds In Sacramento

9 Must-See Birds In Sacramento

As the state capital, Sacramento has everything you want in a major city: historic areas from the Gold Rush era, numerous museums and nature reserves with unique local wildlife. While the city is buzzing with exciting things to do, it is also close to many natural areas that offer escape and tranquility, as well as birdlife. Next time you’re in the area, check out some popular birding spots and look for these Sacramento must-see birds!

Sandhill Crane Sandhill cranes find their way to the Central Valley in California during the winter. You can find them near grasslands, pastures and wetlands. These birds are tall and heavy, with long legs and long necks.


Habitat and Range: The sandhill crane has a fairly scattered population in the United States. They usually breed in Canada and winter in the Southwest and Florida. But some find their way to the central parts of California. You can find them in the Central Valley during the winter, where they live near grasslands, pastures and wetlands.

Characteristics and coloring: They are tall and heavy-bodied birds with long legs and long necks. They have gray and rusty brown plumage, with red skin on their crown.

Diet: Insects, aquatic plants, rodents, reptiles, small birds, seeds and berries

Vocalizations: Loud calls, grunts and hisses

Nest: A clump of plant material in marsh vegetation

Peregrine falcons Peregrine falcons, the fastest animals in the world, live year-round in California. Look for them in Sacramento during the winter in open areas near the edges of the lake.

©Chris Hill/Shutterstock.com

Habitat and Range: Peregrine falcons migrate across most of the United States, but California is one of the few states with year-round residents. The best time to find these predators is during the winter in Sacramento’s wildlife areas. You can spot them in open areas near the edges of the lake.

Characteristics and coloration: They are one of the largest hawks on the continent and have long, pointed wings and long tails. These birds are bluish-grey above and streaked white below, with yellow legs, bills and glasses.

Diet: Birds and small mammals

Vocalizations: Harsh, harsh calls

Nest: A simple scratch in a rock ledge or other structure

Surf Scoter Surf Scoter winters along the California coast. During bad weather, these sea ducks find their way inland for shelter. They are medium-sized ducks and have thick, sloping beaks and thick necks.

Habitat and Range: Surf Scoter grows in Northern Canada and Alaska and winters along the coastlines of the United States. Occasionally, some make their way inland to Sacramento. You’re likely to spot one during bad weather as the groups leave the banks and take shelter.

Characteristics and coloring: These are medium-sized ducks with large, sloping beaks and thick necks. Adult males are black with white spots and orange charts.

Diet: molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, fish and some plant material

Vocalizations: Gulling calls and soft whistles

Nests: A shallow depression hidden under low trees away from water

Rufous Hummingbird They breed in the Pacific Northwest and winter in Mexico. Stopping to rest in the meadows, the impetuous hummingbird makes its way through Sacramento on migration.

©Rachel Lambert/Shutterstock.com

Habitat and Range: The swift hummingbird breeds in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, migrates through the Southwest, and winters in Mexico. You will find this species in Sacramento during their migration, where they stop to rest in the meadows.

Characteristics and Coloration: These small hummingbirds have short wings, tapered tails, and long, straight beaks. They have bright orange bodies with white underparts and iridescent red throats.

Diet: Nectar and insects

Vocalizations: quick chips and wing buzzes

Nest: A compact cup of grass and moss well hidden in trees and bushes

Snowy Plover Snowy plovers live year-round along the California coast. You will find them near shores, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. They are small shorebirds with plump bodies and short necks.


Habitat and Range: The snowy plover lives year-round along the California coast, while some populations inhabit areas further inland. They live in open sandy areas near water, such as shores, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers.

Characteristics and coloring: They are small shorebirds with short necks, large heads and plump bodies. Adults are sandy brown above and white below. They also have black spots on their face and neck during the summer.

Diet: crustaceans, insects and marine worms

Vocalizations: Sweet, whistling calls

Nest: A shallow scratch in bare open ground

Long-eared owls Long-eared owls spend the winter in Sacramento, where they inhabit forests, conifers, meadows, and orchards. These tall, slender birds have prominent ear tufts and orange facial discs.

©Mindaugas Urbonas / Creative Commons

Habitat and Range: The long-eared owl winters in Sacramento and most of California. However, there are some populations that live year-round in the state. These owls inhabit many different habitats, such as forests, coniferous trees, meadows and prairies.

Characteristics and Coloration: They are tall and slender for owls and have prominent ear tufts and orange facial discs. Their plumage features intricate patterns of black, brown and buff.

Diet: small mammals, birds, rodents, bats and reptiles

Vocalizations: Mostly silent, but produces “whoo” notes during breeding season

Nests: They use nests abandoned by other birds

Cassin’s Vireo Cassin’s Vireo (Vireo cassinii) is a small songbird of North America, ranging from southern British Columbia in Canada to the western coastal states of the United States. This bird migrates, spending the winter from southern Arizona (Sonoran Desert) to southern Mexico.


Habitat and Range: Cassin’s Vireo breeds in much of California before migrating to Mexico for the winter. They inhabit a variety of forests, including deciduous, mixed and coniferous. Although, they prefer pine, spruce and mixed forests in the interior of the state.

Characteristics and Coloration: These small songbirds have strong frames, short beaks and long wings. They are olive green above and white below with gray heads.

Diet: Insects, spiders, fruits and berries

Vocalizations: Interrupting songs and harsh, harsh calls

Nest: A heavy cup of grass and bark placed on a tree fork

Evening Grosbeak During the winter, you will find evening grosbeaks in deciduous and coniferous forests. But they can also reside in urban and suburban areas. They are large, heavy finches with thick, conical beaks.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Habitat and Range: Evening Grosbeaks winter in Sacramento and throughout much of the state. Some even live year-round in Northern California. During the winter, you will find them mostly in deciduous and coniferous forests. However, they can also inhabit urban and suburban areas, especially in close proximity to bird feeders.

Characteristics and coloration: These finches are large and heavy with thick, conical beaks. They also have thick necks, short tails and broad chests. Males are bright yellow and black with prominent wing spots. Females are mostly gray with a green tint and black and white wings.

Diet: Seeds, berries and insects

Vocalizations: short, uneven sounds and sweet piercing calls

Nest: A cup of loose twigs lined with grass and placed on a horizontal tree branch away from the trunk

Tundra Swan The tundra swan winters in California near large bodies of water, such as lakes, estuaries, rivers, and ponds. These large waterfowl have long necks and steep beaks.


Habitat and Range: The Tundra Swan winters in Northern and Central California, especially near the coast. You will find them in large bodies of water, such as estuaries, lakes, bays, rivers and ponds. You can also see them foraging in herds in agricultural fields.

Characteristics and coloration: They are very large waterfowl, with heavy bodies, long necks and sloping bills. Their plumage is entirely white, and their beaks are black with yellow spots at the base. They also have black legs and feet.

Diet: Seeds and aquatic vegetation

Vocalizations: Smooth, high-pitched chirping

Nest: A low pile of plant material near open water

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