Discover the Top 5 Feeder Birds in California for Birdwatchers

Imagine stepping outside to the gentle chirps and tweets filling the air, a symphony composed by California’s most charming feathered residents. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a curious newcomer, knowing who’s who at your backyard feeder can turn an ordinary day into an exciting exploration. From the vivid flashes of the Western Bluebird to the cheeky antics of the Scrub Jay, California offers a captivating array of avian visitors.

You might wonder what it takes to attract these beautiful creatures to your yard. Well, you’re in luck! Identifying the top feeder birds in California not only enhances your birdwatching experience but also helps in creating a bird-friendly haven right at your doorstep. So grab your binoculars and get ready to meet some of the stars of the Pacific Flyway.

Common Features of Feeder Birds

Social Behavior at Feeders

  1. Gregarious Feeding: Many birds, like the House Finch and Pine Siskin, enjoy feeder spaces that accommodate groups, making your feeder a lively hub of activity.
  2. Territorial Displays: Species such as the Scrub Jay often exhibit dominance near feeders, defending their dining area from others.
  3. Varied Interaction Levels: While some birds prefer company, others like the Northern Flicker, might opt for a quieter and less crowded feeding station.
  1. Seeds Predominantly: Birds such as Sparrows and Finches gravitate towards sunflower and millet seeds, which are perfect for your typical tube or hopper feeders.
  2. Suet Cakes for Insect-Lovers: If you’re looking to attract Woodpeckers or Nuthatches, hanging suet feeders are a must, aiming to mimic their natural insect-heavy diet.
  3. Nectar Feeders for Hummingbirds: The enchanting Hummingbirds necessitate special feeders filled with sugar water, mimicking the nectar they adore.

Top 5 Small Feeder Birds in California

Explore the charm of California’s smallest feeder birds, perfect for enhancing your birdwatching adventures right from your backyard. Let’s narrow down your watch list to these delightful avian visitors.

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch, famous for its vibrant yellow plumage during the breeding season, is a joy to spot. Which seeds do they prefer? You’ll find them flocking to feeders filled with nyjer or sunflower seeds. Their dynamic feeding behavior and acrobatic positions make them entertaining to watch, especially when they are in groups. A goldfinch’s visit can brighten up any day with a splash of color!

Oak Titmouse

Unassuming yet charming, the Oak Titmouse is native to California and can often be seen in oak woodlands. These small birds, with their soft gray tones and a tufted head, love to grab sunflower seeds and suet. They’re curious explorers and aren’t shy about visiting feeder locations repeatedly throughout the day, making them a familiar sight if you regularly fill your bird feeders.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Though tiny, the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet carries an explosive personality. Easily recognizable by a brilliant red patch on its crown—which is often hidden—their energetic movements and incessant vocalizations make them noticeable. They happily flit around suet feeders, where they’re likely to stop for a quick meal before darting off again, making every sighting a delightful surprise.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

A mesmerizing visitor, the Black-Chinned Hummingbird, graces many California gardens. Set up a nectar feeder to attract them, and you’ll be treated to the sight of these agile fliers hovering and darting from bloom to bloom. Males show off a striking black chin with a purple base, which glistens under the sunlight—an enchanting view for any bird enthusiast.


Petite and social, the Bushtit is commonly found in flocks, making a communal visit to your yard a lively event. These grayish-brown birds with long tails appreciate suet and small insect meal feeders. They have a quiet demeanor but their presence brings a bustling energy to feeder spots, keeping the bird watching scene in your garden continuously animated.

Top 5 Medium-Sized Feeder Birds in California

Continuing from the charm of small feeder birds, let’s explore some medium-sized feathered friends that are likely to visit your feeders in California. These birds not only add variety and vibrancy to your yard but also have fascinating behaviors that are captivating to observe.

California Scrub-Jay

Recognize the California Scrub-Jay by its striking blue and gray plumage. This bird loves to stash acorns and nuts, so consider offering these in your feeders. They’re quite intelligent and aren’t shy about visiting backyard settings, especially if you have oak trees around.

Spotted Towhee

The Spotted Towhee, with its dramatic black, white, and orange markings, makes a bold impression. These birds are ground feeders, so scattering seeds on the ground or using low platform feeders can attract them to your yard. Watch as they scratch the earth with a characteristic backward hop, uncovering hidden treats.

Dark-Eyed Junco

A frequent winter visitor, the Dark-Eyed Junco has a sleek gray coat and a charming pink beak. These birds prefer millet and can often be found foraging beneath feeders for fallen seeds. They’re a joy to watch, especially when they flit through the colder weather, bringing life to the frosty garden landscape.

Western Bluebird

The Western Bluebird will steal your heart with its vivid blue color and rusty chest. They’re partial to mealworms, which can be a special treat to offer in a feeder. Installing a nest box might encourage them to make your yard a long-term home, providing you with endless birdwatching delight.

Northern Flicker

Unlike other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is often found on the ground, digging for ants. Their spotted underwings and loud calls are distinctive. Offer suet in your feeders to see these stunning birds up close, and enjoy their impressive aerial acrobatics and vibrant plumage.

Feeding Tips for Attracting Top Feeder Birds in California

Now that you’re familiar with some of California’s medium-sized feeder birds, let’s enhance your backyard birdwatching with some effective feeding strategies.

Best Types of Bird Feed

Selecting the right bird feed is crucial for attracting a variety of birds. Here’s what you should use:

  • Sunflower Seeds: Ideal for California Scrub-Jays and Spotted Towhees, sunflower seeds are a favorite. Opt for black oil sunflower seeds as they’re easier for birds to crack open.
  • Safflower Seeds: These seeds are less attractive to squirrels and attract birds like the Western Bluebird and Northern Flicker.
  • Nyjer Seeds: Perfect for Dark-Eyed Juncos, Nyjer seeds are small and rich in oils, which are excellent for small beaks.
  • Mealworms: Offering both live and dried mealworms can attract insect-loving birds like the Western Bluebird.

Ideal Feeder Placement

Placing your feeders in the optimal location can significantly increase bird visits:

  • Near Shelter: Birds feel safer when feeders are placed near bushes or trees, providing quick escape routes from predators.
  • Visible but Safe: Ensure feeders are visible from the sky to attract birds flying overhead but away from window lines to minimize accidents.
  • Varied Heights: Different birds feel comfortable at different levels. Place some feeders close to the ground and others in elevated positions to cater to various species.

Timing and Frequency of Feeding

Consistency is key when it comes to feeding:

  • Regular Refilling: Keep your feeders well-stocked, especially during early morning and late afternoon when birds are most active.
  • Seasonal Adjustments: Increase food supply during winter and migratory periods when natural food sources are scarce.
  • Clean Feeders: Regular cleaning, at least once every two weeks, prevents the spread of diseases among your feathered guests.

By following these tailored tips, you’ll not only enjoy the beauty of California’s top feeder birds but also provide them with a supportive environment right in your backyard.

Challenges in Feeding Wild Birds

Feeding wild birds is incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important to address these to ensure the safety and health of the birds you’re inviting into your backyard.

Keeping Feeders Clean and Safe

Keeping your bird feeders clean is crucial to prevent the spread of disease. You should clean them at least once every two weeks, using a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. Make sure they’re completely dry before refilling them with seeds. Additionally, it’s essential to replace old food regularly to avoid mold and bacterial growth. If you notice that seeds are wet or have clumped together, it’s time for a cleanout. Rotten or moldy seeds can be harmful, causing illnesses that could spread throughout the bird population visiting your garden.

Dealing With Predators and Pests

Predators like cats and larger birds of prey can be a significant threat to feeder birds. To protect smaller species, place feeders in open areas where birds can easily see any approaching dangers. You might also consider installing baffle devices to prevent predators from climbing up the feeder poles.

Pests, including squirrels and rats, often seek the seeds in bird feeders. To combat these unwanted guests, use feeders designed to close under the weight of larger animals. Another tactic is to use food that’s less attractive to pests, like safflower seeds, which squirrels find less appealing than sunflower seeds. Regularly cleaning the area around your feeders also helps, as it reduces leftover food that could attract pests.


With your newfound knowledge of California’s top feeder birds, you’re all set to enhance your birdwatching experience. Remember the importance of maintaining clean and safe feeding conditions to support these beautiful creatures. By implementing the right strategies to deter pests and protect the birds, you’ll not only enjoy their vivid presence but also contribute to their wellbeing. So grab your binoculars and start your adventure in your own backyard! Happy birdwatching!

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Dennis K. Carruth

Dennis K. Carruth - Passionate avian enthusiast and owner of Avian Enthusiast. Explore the world of birdwatching with expert guidance and curated resources.

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