Birds that live along Mission Creek are diverse and abundant.  Birds of Prey are the most abundant along the foothills where they search for rodents who live in the grasslands. Hundreds of Turkey Vultures can be seen soaring on the wind currents. Songbirds jump from tree to tree and provide background music as you walk along Mission Creek.  Water Birds are not as abundant because the creek does not provide enough pools for food or shelter, but they occasionally stop by as they fly from Lake Elizabeth, Tyson Lagoon, Quarry Lakes, and the San Francisco Bay.

Order Falconiformes
(vultures, ospreys, hawks, falcons)
     Family Accipitridae
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
          Red Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

     Family Cathartidae
          Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

     Family Falconidae
          American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Order Strigiformes (owls)
     Family Strigidae

          Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Order Passeriformes (songbirds)
     Family Aegithalidae

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
     Family Corvidae
          Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
           American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
          Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
     Family Emberizidae
           Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
          Song Sparrow  (Melospiza melodia)
          California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis)
Golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia  atricapilla)
          White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia l
     Family Fringillidae
          House finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
     Family Icteridae
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
     Family Mimidae
          Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
     Family Paridae
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)

     Family Parulidae
          Yellow rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata)
          Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)         
     Family Regulidae
          Ruby-crowned kinglet (Rugulus calendula)
     Family Sturnidae
          European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
     Family Turdidae (thrushes)
   Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
          American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
          Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)
     Family Tyrannidae (tyrant flycatchers)
          Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Order Piciformes (woodpeckers)
     Family Picidae
          Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Nuttail’s Woodpecker  (Picoides nuttalli)  

Order Apodiformes (hummingbirds)
     Family Trochilidae
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 

Order Columbiformes (doves, pigeons)
   Family Columbidae 
          Mourning Dove  (Zenaida macroura)

Order Anseriformes (ducks, geese)
 Family Anatidae       
          Mallard (
Anas platyrhynchos)

Order Ciconiiformes (herons, egrets)
     Family Ardeidae
          Green Heron (Butorides virescens)


Order Falconiformes (vultures, ospreys, hawks, falcons) 

Family Accipitridae
Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii         

A medium sized bird with a long, lean body.  A swift flyer with a hooked beak.  This hawk is noted as a predator of other birds, as well as also mammals.  The female is about 42-50 cm and the male is slightly smaller.  In flight the Cooper’s hawk exhibits a long barred tail and short, rounded wings.  

Family Accipitridae
Red Shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

This predator eats small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and small birds.  It is a large broad-winged hawk with a relatively long tail.  The female is larger than the male.  A brown head and reddish upper wings are characteristic of this species.  The tail is dark brown with white bands.  It has sharp eyesight with excellent depth perception.  Females lay 3-4 whitish eyes with brown blotches.  

Family Cathartidae
Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Turkey vultures are large eagle-like birds, with 2-toned blackish wings and small red naked heads. They have a longish, hooked bill with short, thick legs.  “Kettles” of vultures are often seen soaring in wide circles with their wings held in a “V” position (dihedral).  They ride thermals of rising air and seldom flap their wings as they soar in the sky.  Vultures feed on the flesh of dead animals (carrion) including that of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. 

Family Falconidae
American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

The American kestrel is the smallest and most common of our falcons.  It has a russet back and tail, and two black stripes on a white face.  The male has blue-gray wings.  Kestrels feed on insects, small reptiles and mammals and hover over their prey before plunging to seize them in their talons.  They were formerly called sparrow hawks because they may feed on small birds in winter.  Their call is a shrill, loud killy killy killy.

Order Strigiformes (owls)

Family Strigidae
Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Distinct catlike ears and eyes with a feathered tuft on head that resembles a horn.  Upper body is brown with gray brown mottling.  Average length is about 64 cm with a 1.4-meter wingspan.  Considered a ferocious predator hunting on small mammals, birds, and crayfish.  It regurgitates the unwanted parts of its prey.  Uses abandon nest of hawks or crows.


Order Passeriformes
(flycatchers, swallows, jays, chickadees, nutcrackers, thrushes, wrens, starlings, warblers, sparrows, finches)

Family Aegithalidae

Psaltriparus minimus 

High thin, fussing notes and constant twittering and fluttering in the trees announce the arrival of a flock of insect-eating bushtits.  They are gray above with brownish cheeks, whitish below, and have a long tail and short bill.  Approximately 11 cm in length.  Feeds on aphids, spiders, and other insect as well as seeds and fruits. The nest is a long woven sock hung from a branch that usually contains 5-7 white eggs.  Eggs incubate in 12 days and young fledge in 14-15 days.  Common in California.

Family Corvidae
Western Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma californica

The crestless scrub jay has a blue head, wings and tail, a brownish back, white throat, and a necklace of short streaks across the breast.  Its rough rasping shreek often announces the presence of an intruder into its habitat.  It has an oak woodland habitat.  It lays 3-6 reddish or green spotted eggs in a twiggy bowl located in a bush or low tree.

Family Corvidae
American Crow
Corvus brachyrhynchos 

Large black bird that is slightly iridescent blue and purple about 45 cm long with a 90 cm wingspan.  Tail is fan shaped and slightly rounded.  Nest is coarsely but well made with sticks, twigs and grass.  They have 4-7 blue green to greenish white mottled and speckled eggs that are about 41 mm in length.  This omnivore eats grains, seeds, insects, frogs and human scraps.  It gives a caw-caw or caa-caa sound.

Family Corvidae
Steller's Jay

Cyanocitta stelleri

A jay with black crest with deep blue belly with black breast.  It has a length of 30-34 cm and a wingspan of 45-48 cm.   It has a thick, pointed bill.  Its song is chook-chook chook or shack-shack-shack.  This omnivore eats nuts, seeds and acorns, and some invertebrates.  It also eats the eggs of other birds.  It is monogamous with clutches of 2-6 eggs in cup shaped nests.

Family Emberizidae
Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

Gray sparrow with white outer tail feathers and white breast.  It breeds in brushy areas.  It is an omnivore that eats seeds, insects and some fruits.  Has a pink conical bill.  The female is somewhat browner

Family Emberizidae
Song Sparrow
Melospiza melodia

The song sparrow is brown with a heavy streaked breast and a central dark “stickpin.”  Its legs and feet are pinkish.  It pumps its long, rounded tail in flight.  It inhabits dense streamside thickets and moist wood margins.  Its song is a series of variable musical and buzzy notes: sweet, sweet, sweet.  Its call note is a hollow chimp.  It lays 3-5 spotted eggs in a grass cup on the ground or in a bush.                                             

Family Emberizidae
California Towhee

Pipilo crissalis

 The California towhee is dull brown above, paler below, and has a dark buff colored streaked throat.  It has a long tail with rusty orange under tail coverts.  This common bird hops while feeding on the ground near dense shrubbery.  Its call is a metallic chink.  The cup nest is built in a bush or tree and contains 3-4 spotted eggs.

Family Emberizidae
Golden-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia atricapilla

Medium sized bird with a long tail and a yellow crown.  Feeds on seeds, nuts, and insects.  It has a dark conical bill.  Its face and under parts are gray.  Wings are brownish.

Family Emberizidae
White-crowned Sparrow


Distinctive black stripe that extends along the crown of head and behind eyes.  It outlines white feathers on top of its head.  Its breast is light gray with dark brown flight feathers.  Mainly eats seeds, grass, buds and fruit.

Family Fringillidae
House Finch
Carpodacus mexicanus 

Small bird about 14 cm in length.  Male is rosy pink on throat and rump, while female is gray-streaked brown.  They eat seeds from thistle and dandelion as well as fruit such as cherries.  Nest is made of grass as a shallow cup.  A clutch is 3-6 bluish or greenish white eggs.

Family Icteridae
Brewer’s Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus 

The Brewer’s blackbird male has a black body that in certain light can reflect purple on the head and green on the body.  The eye of the male is white.  The female is a brown gray color and has brown eyes.  These birds generally occur in pairs even when with a flock.  They feed on insects, seeds, and fruits found in the surrounding area. 

Family Mimidae
Northern Mockingbird
Mimus polyglottos 

Long tail with gray feathers above and paler gray to white below with white wing bars. This perching bird has a gray back and pale underside. It has white wing patches that are noticeable during flight. The long tail has white outer feathers. Its song is a mixture of imitated songs and calls that may continue into the night hours. Commonly found in thickets and shrubs along creek margins.    About 30 cm long.

Family Paridae
Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Poecile rufescens

The chestnut-backed chickadee has a brown cap, white cheeks, and a black bib. It is about 13 cm with a small body and long tail. It is an omnivore eating seeds, spiders, caterpillars and many other insects.   It feeds high in trees, sometimes hanging upside down.  Its call is a hoarse, rapid  tseek-a-dee-dee.  It lays 5-7 dotted eggs in a cavity of a tree or stump.  It is a social bird traveling in flocks with creepers, woodpeckers, and kinglets.

Family Parulidae
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Dendroica coronata

A warbler with a yellow rump with yellow patches on its sides.  During mating the male and female have yellow crown patches and white tail feathers.  They are omnivores eating insects, berries and other fruits.  Their nest is a neat cup made of twigs, bark strips, and is lined with feathers and grass.  They have 4-5 cream colored eggs with brown spots.

Family Parulidae
Wilson’s Warbler

Wilsonia pusilla 

Similar to yellow rumped warbler but has a distinctive black cap.  The back is yellow green with yellow front and cheeks.  Mainly an insectivore that eats mostly adult larval invertebrates, but will eat berries.  Small slender bill.  Female lays about 4-6 eggs.

Family Regulidae
Ruby-crowned kinglet

Rugulus calendula

The ruby-crowned kinglet is a tiny, plump, active, nervous bird.  It flicks its wings rapidly while singing a high, thin tsee, or scolding je-dit je-dit.  It is grayish-olive above, with two white wing bars.  The male flashes its red crown patch when upset.

Family Sturnidae
European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris  

The starling is about 22 cm in length with iridescent green glossy feathers covering the back, nape and breast.  Its legs are a reddish brown.  It has a black bill, except during mating season it is yellow.  They are omnivores eating seeds, insects, and fruits.  Eggs are glossy light blue and white.  They have three clutches per year. 

Family Turdidae
Hermit Thrush
Catharus guttatus 

Average length is 17 cm with a wingspan of 29 cm.  This bird has a distinct white eye ring, indistinct whitish bar over the lores, darkly spotted breast and sides of throat.  Reddish coloration on tail.  Omnivores-eats insects, small invertebrates and fruits.  Female lays 3-6 eggs that are pale blue to blue-green with brow flecks.

Family Turdidae
Varied Thrush

Ixoreus naevius

The varied thrush is 19-26 cm long.  The male is slate blue on its back and nape, with an orange face.  The female is dull with brownish-olive coloration.  It is an omnivore eating fruits, berries, acorns and arthropods.

Family Turdidae (thrushes)
American Robin
Turdus migratorius

Considered a large thrush 23-28 cm in length.  It is brown above, reddish on the breast, especially in males.  Throats are white, streaked with black.  They are omnivores eating fruits, earthworms,  and insects.  They are an effective pest control.  Cup shaped nests with mud on the inside.  They lay 3-5 blue green eggs that are incubated by the female for about 14 days.  Robins are migratory, shifting south during the autumn.

Family Tyrannidae (tyrant flycatchers)
Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans

The black phoebe is a solitary flycatcher that feeds almost entirely on flying insects.  It perches in the open near water, wagging and spreading its tail.  It makes short flights to catch insects, and returns to its perch.  The top of its body, including the breast, is black; the belly is white.  Its 4-syllable song is a thin, rising pee-wee, followed by a descending pee-wee.  Its calls include a loud tsee and a sharper tsip.  It lays 3-6 white eggs in a cup nest of mud and grass built beneath an overhanging cliff or eave. 

Order Piciformes (woodpeckers)

Family Picidae
Northern Flicker
Colaptes auratus 

Brown above with dark spots and bars with a black patch on its upper breast.  Face is gray with a red bar near the base of its peak.  It has a white rump that is visible during flight.  It has a loud repeated wik-wik-wik or flicker-flicker-flicker

Family Picidae
Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Picoides nuttallii   

Black with white stripes on face.  Male has a red crown.  About 18-19 cm in length.  They excavate a nest in oak or cottonwood and female lays about 3-6 white eggs.  Their voice is a rolling call, prreep, or sharp pit-it.

Order Apodiformes (hummingbirds, swifts)

Family Trochilidae
Anna’s Hummingbird

Calypte anna

This hummingbird is the largest California hummingbird and is the only one commonly found here during midwinter.  It is dark green above and gray below.  Males have a brilliant red crown and red-spotted throat.  Females often have a few red throat feathers and a white-tipped tail.  Its song, delivered from a perch, is a series of squeaking, rasping notes; its call is a sharp chick.  It lays 2 white eggs in a tiny lichen-covered cup fastened to a branch of a tree or shrub.

Order Columbiformes  (doves, pigeons)

Family Columbidae
Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

This common dove is gray-brown with a black spot on its cheeks.  It has a slim body, small head, pinkish feet, and a long pointed tail.  The wings produce a whistling sound as the dove takes flight and the white tips of the outer tail feathers are visible.  Small flocks are often found feeding on the ground or perched on wires or tree branches.  Its flight is swift and direct without coasting.  Its call is a series of mournful coos.  It lays 2 white eggs in nests in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. 


Order Anseriformes  (ducks, geese)

Family Anatidae

Anas platyrhynchos

Mallards have a violet or blue wing patch (speculum) bordered with white.  The bill is light greenish-yellow in the male and yellow blotched with black in the female.  The hen (female) is mottled brown with a light line above the eye.  In breeding, the drake (male) has a plumage of a bright green head, white color, reddish-brown chest, gray sides, and black all around the base of the tail. 

Order Ciconiiformes  (herons, egrets)

Family Ardeidae
Green Heron

Butorides virescens 

Adult green herons are about the size of a crow (40 cm high) with a stocky build and legs that are relatively short.   They fly with their long beaks and legs extended.  Adult green herons have distinctive bluish-green and reddish-brown coloration with gray under parts and a dark bill.   They forage along wooded shores from perches on snags or trees close above the water.  They build stick nests in the upper dense tops of tall trees.  They usually lay 2-4 eggs.   Carnivores feeding on fish and invertebrates with some rodents, lizards, frogs, tadpoles, and snakes. 

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