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Losing Wild Birds: Where did my sparrows, finches & other birds go?

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 at 8:29 am in Audubon Society, Birds, Climate, Global warming, Survey.

Western bluebird by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

A new Audubon California study released today (Feb. 10) finds that the state will lose significant numbers of its native birds as climate change quickly shrinks the range and habitat of more than 100 species.

You can read the whole news story here:

Robin by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.
robin berry1

Over a year ago I started getting e-mails and letters from my readers asking me, “Where are my wild birds?”

The weather had been weird — hot when it should have been cold, cold when it should have been hot, dry when it needed to be wet … sound familiar?

So I did one of my quickie little surveys. The results were published in the Jan. 5, 2008 Home and Garden Section of our Bay Area News Group-East Bay newspapers. Basically, 90 bird species had been spotted in 152 Bay Area backyards in 37 Bay Area cities. I also provided a list of the 90 species.

We’ve got a golden opportunity here to do another survey today and compare the results with my survey of a year ago to see if our local wild bird and wild bird species numbers are indeed dropping as the Audubon Society study suggests. Have the numbers gone down from a year ago? Let’s find out.

All you need to do is take a few moments to follow the instructions below. This is the identical survey request I sent out a year ago.

Please help us see if we are indeed losing some of our wild bird species. I’ll also publicize this information in my daily newspaper columns to help us get as wide a response as possible. This is the same thing I did a year ago.

Killdeer by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Survey: GOT BIRDS?
What kinds of birds do you see in your yard?

I’m doing a quickie survey on the subject. I get a lot of mail asking, “Where are my birds?” Apparently some people don’t see very many, so I thought I’d check and try to find out.

Please take a moment to send me a list of the different types of bird species you’ve seen in your front yard or backyard in the past two weeks (songbirds, quails, herons, woodpeckers, doves, hummingbirds, hawks, owls, waterfowl, whatever).

Have you noticed a drop in the bird numbers of any species? Which species? Are there any species that you’ve stopped seeing? Which ones?

Also include your name, city, nearest cross streets to your house, and a phone number (I’ll keep it confidential) in case I have a quick question. I’ll print the results of this survey here in my blog and in my column. Thanks!

** Enter the information under Comments/Reply below.

The adventure begins. /Gary

Read the Audubon California study here:

White pelican by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

60 Responses to “Losing Wild Birds: Where did my sparrows, finches & other birds go?”

  1. don rice Says:

    Pleasanton – Willowren Way and Mallard St.

    House Finch – lots
    Mourning Dove – increased numbers this year
    Oregon Juncoes – slightly increased numbers
    robins – fewer
    Yellow-rumped warbler
    Anna’s hummer – one or two as last year
    Scrub Jay – fewer
    Crows – loads
    White crowned sparrow – few as ;ast year
    American goldfinch – somewhat fewer than last year
    lesser goldfinch – no change
    Turkey vultures – not in the yard but visible cruising around overhead

  2. Dave Klein Says:

    San Ramon – Bollenger and Camino Ramon

    House Finch – Many = No Change
    White Crowned Sparrow – Few = No Change
    Morning Dove – Many = No Change
    Plain Titmouse – Few = No Change
    Downey Woodpecker – Few = No Change
    Golden Finch – Many – Slightly Fewer
    Red Winged Blackbird – Few = Increase
    Turkeys – Once a year – No Change
    White Breasted Nuthatch – Few = No change
    Scrub Jays – Medium amount = No change
    Black Phoebe – few – No change
    Screech Owl – Hear them but don’t see them = Increase
    Oregon Juncoes – Many = No change

  3. Heidi Says:

    San Jose – Samaritan Dr. & Winton Way

    House Finch – much more than last year
    Lesser Goldfinch – same as last year, maybe 1 or 2 more
    Chestnut-backed Chickadee – same, 2-3
    Oak Titmouse – same 1, maybe 2
    Yellow-rumped Warbler – one, I think she’s the same visitor every winter
    California Towhee – two less than last year
    Dark-eyed Junco – same, maybe more
    Bewick’s Wren – same, just one
    Anna’s Hummingbird – 2 or 3 over-wintered in our yard, i’m sure there will be 5-6 during the summer
    Scrub Jay – we have at least three of them I think that’s one more than usual
    American Crow – several, same as before
    miscellaneous Gulls overhead – several – i don’t remember that many before
    Rock Pigeons – at least 25, same as in the summer and probably last year
    Band-tailed Pigeon – 1 that hangs out with the Rock Pigeons
    Mourning Doves – 5-6, about the same, maybe 1 or 2 less
    Black Phoebe – 1, never saw it before last summer, now it’s here at least 3 times a week.

    We seem to have no House Sparrows this winter… that’s a great thing :)
    We have had a Northern Mockingbird for the last couple years, and I haven’t seen or heard it in the last few months.

    My mom said she saw a quail running across the street yesterday walking to work, never seen one in this neighborhood before.

    I haven’t seen it in the last couple weeks, but think I heard it – Nuttall’s Woodpecker… could have been another type, but pretty sure it’s our resident Nuttall’s.
    I haven’t seen it from the yard, but I know we have a neighborhood Red-shouldered Hawk.

    PS. Joe Oliver is an awesome nature photographer!

  4. A Snow Says:

    Hummers (Ana’s) = ZERO…even with repeated bird feeder changes, using the high octane red liquid and blooming flowers….used to have hummer battles. No nests this year.

    Turkey = about the same

    Hawks = one or two, used to be lots (5 – 7)

    No owls (barn) for several years now

    Less western jays (1 – 2)

    About the same number of quails

    And mourning doves

    More pigeons (5- 8)

    Thanks for your beautiful photos!

    Contra Costa / Mt Diablo

  5. Eva Staudinger Says:

    About 2 years ago I had seen about 5 hummingbirds in my yard .I
    can only remember seeing a few Owls in the trees which I thought to be strange since I live in the city.But this year I only have only seen some crows .Sure miss the hummingbirds!

  6. Jeannine Gendar Says:

    In Martinez:

    Haven’t been outside much but:
    black phoebe
    cedar waxwings
    Anna’s hummingbirds

    Don’t remember the phoebe before this year, but maybe that’s me. Seems like the cedar waxwings came around earlier.

  7. Nancy Schick Says:

    Lots of House finches

  8. Nancy Schick Says:

    Moraga–Arroyo dr. –Sullivan
    Lots of house finches
    Mourning doves–lots
    Oregon Junco same as last year
    Robins–a few sometimes
    Anna’s hummingbird same as last year
    Scrub Jay–the usual six
    Stellar jaytoday for the first time
    White crowned sparrow lots
    American gold finch not as many this year
    Lesser finch same as last year
    Pine siskin about the same but came earlier this year
    Cooper’s hawk-seen sometimes
    Nuthatch-same as last year
    Black capped chickadee lots
    Nuthall’s woodpecker-a pair
    Rufus towee same as last year have only seem four–
    tufted titmouse–same as last year
    Bewicks wren–have only seen one
    Quail–lots-same as last year
    Turkeys–six–less then last year–usually see more in the spring

  9. Bob Brittain Says:

    Walnut Creek – Deneb & Hustonwood Ct – near Acalanes Ridge Open Space

    redtail hawk – usual 3-4
    turkey vulture – usual # cruising
    turkeys – up in neighborhood
    black-shoulder kites – 5 on Acalanes Ridge – normal
    great horned owl – normal # heard at night
    Cooper’s hawk – less sighted than normal
    acorn woodpecker – frequent feeder on sunflowers – up
    downy woodpecker – also frequent feeder user – up
    Nutall’s woodpecker – also loves sunflower feeder now
    scrub jay – fewer but no peanuts now
    Steller’s jay – none this year vs 2 usually
    northern mockingbird – up now >2
    CA thrasher – none vs.maybe 1
    spotted towhee – none yet vs 1-2
    CA towhee – 4-6 – about usual
    American robin – way down – not eating toyon berries
    cedar waxwing – not observed – usually strip toyon
    redwinged blackbird – NONE – unusual!
    Brewer’s blackbird – noe – unusual
    mourning dove – not as many but up to 20
    rock dove – just a few (GOOD)
    bandtail pigeon – only 2-3 vs flock
    American goldfinch – a down year
    lesser goldfinch – less to normal
    house finch – about normal
    chestnut backed chickadee – up to about 6
    oak titmouse – up to about 6
    Bewick’s wren – 1st sighting ths year
    white breasted nuthatch – 1 – new this year
    black phoebe – occasional – about normal
    Oregon junco – maybe 6-8 a bit fewer
    white-crowned sparrow – maybe 15-20 – good year
    golden crowned sparrow – off year – just a few
    other sparrows quite a few – normal
    western bluebird – frequent in neighborhood
    gulls – overhead as usual
    mallards – overhead as usual
    Canada geese – overhead as usual

  10. Marnie Parker Says:

    It seems to me I am not seeing the numbers of Bushtits that I saw a year ago. Others — I haven’t noticed, just seem fewer of everything.

  11. M ark Boehme Says:

    In general: Not much difference in number of typical back yard birds at my home in Benicia. House Sparrows, Juncos, crows, white and gold crowned sparrows, anna’s hummingbird mourning doves, goldfinches, scrbjays and California Towhee. Fewer: House Finches, Common Bushtit, Pine Sisken (only seen once in 10 years I have lived here), Bullocks’s Oriole. Transients seen this year cedar wax wings (2x this winter). Seen Occasionally: Red Tail, Kite, Owls (mostly heard at night) Rufous sided Towhee, Cooper’s Hawk, Band Tailed Pigeon.

  12. Misty Says:

    House Sparrow
    House Finch
    White-crowned Sparrow
    Chestnut-backed Chickadee
    Pygmy Nuthatch
    Dark-eyed Junco
    California Towhee
    Black Phoebe
    Mourning Dove
    White-throated Sparrow
    American Robin
    Anna’s Hummingbird
    Scrub Jay
    Northern Flicker (only once)
    Sharp-shinned Hawk
    European Starling
    Rock Dove
    Other unidentified sparrows

    I’ve only lived here for a couple of years, so can’t speak to increases / decreases. Other birds we’ve seen in the backyard (tho not in the last couple of weeks):
    Red-breasted Nuthatch, Townsend’s Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown Creeper, Brewer’s Blackbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbird. A pair of conures landed in a tree 2 doors down, but didn’t stop at our feeders.

    San Francisco, CA
    Near City College

  13. Doris McManus Says:

    Re: Birds Corner Canary-Greenwood Pleasanton
    I feed my birds in a large patio, mostly paved, with an orange tree, Meyer lemon, fuschia and a few small shrubs. I have at least as many birds as usual but with a few variations.
    1 pair scrub jays, never more unless there are young
    Many finches
    White crowned sparrows , not as many
    Many doves
    1 Anna’s humming bird who chases all others
    1 male American golfinch once
    other goldfinches
    Used to have a mockingbird nesting in a big tree but the tree is gone and so is the mockingbird family
    Never had robins, no worms
    many crows overhead, rarely in courtyard
    1 turkey vulture who dragged in a dead squirrel
    1 or more black phoebes in the back yard.

  14. Dale Kilbourne Says:

    Vallejo, Ca

    morning doves: increase
    brewer’s blackbird: increase
    juncos: increase
    cedar waxwing: decrease
    scrub jays: decrease
    robins: decrease
    crows: increase
    turkey vultures: increase
    mockingbird: decrease
    house finch: same–many
    american gold finch: same–many
    california towhee: same–many
    white crown sparrow–a few–usual

  15. J. Bentley Says:

    Foothill Rd., Sunol

    house finch
    scrub jay
    CA quail
    red tailed hawks
    sharp shin hawks
    coopers hawk
    blue heron
    turkey vultures
    downey woodpecker

    Have not seen a decrease in the amount of birds since last year.

  16. Ted Durst Says:

    Ted: San Ardo Ct. WC Ygnacio and San Carlos.
    We have been reporting for Cornell’s project Feeder Watch for the last five or six years; species routinely seen and counted:
    Spotted Towhee
    CA Brown Towhee
    CA Quail
    American Gold Finch
    Lesser Gold Finch
    House Finch
    House Sparrow
    White Crowned Sparrow
    Mourning Dove
    Nuttall’s Woodpecker
    Downey Woodpecker
    Chestnut Backed Chickadee
    White Breasted Nuthatch
    Anna’s Hummingbird
    American Robin
    Scrub Jay
    Darkeyed (Oregon) Junco
    Plain Titmouse

    We have noticed reduction in numbers of CA Quail, American Gold Finches, Kestrals, Perigrine Falcons, and Owls.

    Goldfinches seem to be here for shorter periods than in past years.

  17. Marilyn Russell Says:

    above junction of Reuss & Tesla Road, Livermore, CA

    I did not do this last year, but I think my numbers are still comparable.
    We feed about 13 goldfinches (Lesser)
    & 2 dozen White-crowned sparrows.

    Around our 6 acre property we have:
    2 red-tailed hawks
    numerous Turkey Vultures
    1 Thrasher (singing continuously)
    2 killdeer
    American kestrel
    Barn Owl
    Great Horned Owl

  18. Marilyn Russell Says:

    oops–I hit the wrong button, hope this will continue on my list:
    1 house finch
    2 ravens
    huge flocks mixed Starling & blackbirds (Brewer’s & red-winged)
    Ca quail (reduced from a high of around 50 a few years ago to less that 10!)
    30+ mourning doves

  19. Sue Dalander Says:

    Antioch-Bluerock Dr./Deer Valley Rd. Scrub Jays, Mockingbirds, Hummingbirds-6 or 8 regulars, Robins come to eat strawberries, Yellow & Common House Finch-few, White & Golden Crown Sparrow-few,3 or 4 doves,1 or 2 starlings,about 2 or 3 yellow breasted fly catchers and a couple cedar wax wings.Pigeons sitting on roofs, a red tail hawk snatched one the other day. At least 1 adult red tail & 1 young one in the neighborhood. A couple of northern flickers. We have 4 hummingbird feeders & 2 seed feeders.

  20. Steve Says:

    Walnut Creek – Deerpark Drive near Valley Vista
    Recently have seen:
    House Finches – a bunch
    Lesser Goldfinches – ditto
    Chestnut-backed chickadees
    white-crowned sparrows
    other miscellaneous LBB’s (little brown birds) I can’t identify
    (thistle and seed feeders attracting all these guys to the yard)
    Nuttall’s woodpecker – one female (we’ve been seeing a pair periodically since last Fall)
    Anna’s Hummingbirds – 2 or 3 fighting over the feeder
    Mourning doves – a pair
    California Towhees, occasional
    American Robins, occasional
    Mockingbirds, occasional
    Scrub Jays, occasional
    Mallards in the canal behind the house
    Canada Geese flying over on the way to Boundary Oaks I assume

    We had a Black Phoebe that visited daily, haven’t seen it since the Fall but there are others in the neighborhood so they’re still around. Our neighborhood turkey seems to have moved on!

  21. Susan Herzog Says:

    Livermore-Fifth street

    House sparrows
    House Finches
    white crowned sparrows
    Mourning Doves
    Annas Hummingbirds
    Coopers Hawk
    Turkey Vulture
    Northern Flicker
    Yellow Rumped Warbler
    Robin (less than last year, so far)
    Black Phoebe
    scrub jay

    I have not seen any cedar waxwings this year, at least as of yet, and that is unusual

  22. Mark Schmitz Says:

    Hi Gary,
    Alvord and Addison way in Pleasanton
    I used to take part in the yearly bird study that was carried on by Cornell University. I have to say that I have seen a dramatic decrease in birds in my back yard from 10 years ago. My Anna’s hummingbirds have not been seen for months, no Juncos, Gold Crown Sparrows, Mockingbirds, or Gold Finches. What I have seen recently is:
    *A flock of Cedar Waxwings for one day only.
    *White Crown Sparrows (few)
    *House Finches (few)
    *Turkey Vulture overhead
    *Flock of Titmouse’s passing through
    *A Scrub Jay
    *House sparrows
    *Canadian Geese and Mallards overhead
    Thanks Gary we so enjoy your column

  23. Louise Wall Says:

    Trying to help with the bird survey:
    Clayton, El Camino and Shasta Ct
    juncos (fewer)
    finches, both house and gold (fewer)
    sparrows, (several kinds, no change)
    doves, no change
    robins (fewer)
    chickadees (fewer)
    crows (more)
    starlings (not many)
    brown towhees (fewer)
    hummingbirds (fewer)
    downy woodpeckers (several regulars)
    scrub jays (about the same)
    mockingbirds (more)
    wrens (only a few)
    quail (occasionally)
    sharp-shinned hawk (occasionally)
    peregrine falcon (twice, not recently)
    rufous sided towhees (used to see them but not in last few years)
    bushtits (almost not at all anymore)
    turkey vultures (more)
    We go to the Delta regularly in the fall and winter to see sandhill cranes. This year, fewer of them, but lots more white-fronted geese, Canada geese, snow geese.

  24. Shannon Says:

    Stone Valley Road at Danville Blvd., Alamo
    We have more than a dozen of house and red finches; Also see 2 pairs of 2 types of woodpeckers (downey and ladderback?); nuthatches; scrub jays; stellar jays; juncos; towees; chickadees (my favorite), mourning doves, titmouse. Only 2 cedar waxwings this year and await the return of our Grosbeaks. We have perhaps two goldfinches (used to be a dozen or more), hummingbirds, robins, and way too many squirrels.

  25. Sue Dalander Says:

    I guess I filled out my reply form wrong. My phone number is on there. Can you please take it off for me? Thank You. Sue Dalander

  26. Judy Soares Says:

    Hi Gary

    Read your column everyday! We are in Pleasanton near Hansen Park.
    We see:
    House sparrows
    Turkey Vulture

    We have seen fewer birds in our yard this year compared to prior years. No Robins yet or Mockingbirds and Jays.


  27. marge Says:

    Hi Gary Really enjoy your columns. Most frequently seen in my area:
    Mourning doves – lots; no change
    Anna’s Hummers slight decrease
    Nuttall’s Woodpecker’s – no change
    Scrub Jays – many – no change
    Plain Titmouse – no change
    Chickadee’s no change
    House Finches – no change
    Lesser Goldfinch – fewer
    Song Sparrow – no change
    Oregon Junco – no change
    Robins – fewer
    Pine Siskin – only occasionally
    Owls – rarely – big change

    Location: Acalanes Ridge open space
    Pleasant Hill Rd & Green Valley Dr

  28. Marilyn Williams Says:

    I live near Paseo Padre and Peralta in Fremont.
    Here is the list of birds seen recently. PS: we do have birdfeeders.

    Blue Jays
    Finches – red, yellow, brown
    Canadian Geese
    Turkey Buzzards
    Nut Hatches
    Mourning Doves
    Northern Flickers
    Black Phoebes
    Black Capped Chickadees
    Red-breasted Nuthatchs
    Brown Towhees

  29. Nancy Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Livermore, Hampton and Holmes

    I do the Backyard Bird Count, watch birds all year round. They are the same as they have always been, at least as far as my backyard goes.

    For two years, there were no Oregon Juncos, but they are back strong this winter.

    Seen this weekend include:
    Mourning Doves
    Western Scrub Jay
    American crow
    Black Phoebe
    Calif Towhee
    lots of Sparrows (Lincoln, Savannah, White-Crowned, Golden-Crowned, Oregon Junco)
    lots of American and Lesser Goldfinch
    lots of House Finch
    House Sparrow
    Northern Flicker
    Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
    Oak Titmouse
    Hairy Woodpecker
    A neighbor has quail families.

    These are the winter crew, of course. Birds at the local golf courses seem the same, also at Sycamore Grove park. Summer birds were the same as always at my house, including a flock of Cedar waxwings who spent three days stripping the berries off the Chinese pistache trees and moved on. Year-round, bird numbers and varieties seem to be the same.

    Thanks Gary

  30. Susan Edmondson Says:

    On the ridge above Kaiser and Parkmead, 2/16:
    american crows (they live around Parkmead)
    aak titmice
    purple finches
    western scrub jays
    darkeyed juncos
    chipping sparrows
    acorn woodpeckers
    broadtailed hummingbirds
    a few gulls
    In the last few days:
    canadian geese
    redtail hawk
    barn owl (at night)

  31. Charlotte Gibb Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Over the last two weeks, these are the birds I have seen in my front and back yard:
    American Goldfinch
    Lesser Goldfinch
    Pine Siskin
    House Finch
    Purple Finch
    California Towhee
    Dark-Eyed Junco
    Golden-Crowned Sparrow
    White-Crowned Sparrow
    Spotted Towhee
    Cedar Waxwing
    Hermit Thrush
    House Wren
    Brown Creeper
    White-Breasted Nuthatch
    Red-Breasted Nuthatch
    Oak Titmouse
    Black-Capped Chickadee
    Steller’s Jay
    Black Phoebe
    Downy Woodpecker
    Nuttails’s Woodpecker
    Anna’s Hummingbird
    Rufous or maybe Allen’s hummingbird
    Red-Tailed Hawk
    Morning doves
    Turkey vultures overhead, as usual

    I may be forgetting a few. No shortage of birds here in Lafayette! As always, I’m a big fan of your column.

  32. Helen Bergquist Says:

    Birds in Walnut Creek around Arbolado and Oak Grove Road
    No observed change in numbers:
    Chickadee with a black cap
    Finch–yellow and red
    White Crowned sparrow
    Mourning Doves
    Oregon Junco
    Blue Jay
    Owl–in the big trees, not sighted
    Wood pecker (handsome black & white striped boy)

    Have not yet seen a robin. Usually one of the trees is full of them for a few days–maybe too early.

  33. jerry prola Says:

    we have had no decline in birds – jays and king jays and what we believe are finches and small birds of all types just love our feeder – especially at this time of year – we are in oakland cloase to sobrante and thorndale – do you know of any free publications for identifying birds?

  34. Laura Danielson Says:

    The backyard birds in east Pleasanton:
    • Anna’s hummingbird – number down, although I did move the feeder this year. I found 5 hummer nests when the leaves fell off the crepe myrtles this fall-a record.
    • Black–chinned hummingbird – enjoyed one zipping around the yard yesterday.
    • Acorn woodpecker – number down this year. Don’t hear that pecking at my chimney in the morning.
    • Downy woodpecker – none seen this year; unusual.
    • Scrub jay – no change; good number.
    • American robin – number down this year, although still plentiful.
    • Red-winged blackbird – none so far this year; too early or very unusual.
    • Cedar waxwing – 2 full days of 40+ flocks and no more pyracantha or Toyon berries left on the bushes.
    • Black phoebe – occasional; no change.
    • Mourning dove – 2 persistent pairs; no change.
    • Rufous-sided towhee – occasional visitors; no change
    • California towhee – frequent visitors; no change.
    • American goldfinch – very plentiful this year; numbers up.
    • Lesser goldfinch – very plentiful this year; numbers up.
    • White-crowned sparrow – plentiful; no change.
    • Golden–crowned sparrow – occasional; numbers down.
    • Chipping sparrow – occasional; no change.
    • House finch – plentiful; numbers way up!
    • Purple finch – plentiful; numbers way up!
    • Oregon junco – occasional; no change.
    • Oak titmouse – occasional; no change.
    • California quail – occasional only, number appears way down.
    • Killdeer – Used to keep me awake at night with their kill dee, haven’t seen or heard one in months.
    • Northern mockingbird – occasional only; numbers down.
    • Bushtit – occasional this year; numbers way down.
    • American coot – plentiful; number down however.
    • Red-tailed hawk – one circling pair; no change.
    • White-tailed kite – good number; no change.
    • Golden eagle – no sightings this year; unusual.
    • Red-shouldered hawk-no change.
    • American kestrel – occasional; number down.
    • Cooper’s hawk – none this year; unusual.
    • Turkey vulture- plentiful; no change.
    • Turkey – plentiful; no change.
    (I have noticed a BIG decrease in jackrabbit numbers this year which may account for some of the raptor decreases)

  35. Mary Chafe-Powles Says:

    Grizzly Peak/Wildcat Canyon,Kensington
    Common sightings: lesser goldfinch; pine siskin; brown towhee; oregon junco; scrub jays (one gets hand-fed peanuts); crows; vultures; robins; hummingbirds, Annas.
    recently missing – stellarjays

  36. Mary Chafe-Powles Says:

    Thanks for all you do and making my morning coffee time delightful.MCP

  37. Sunny Sutton Says:

    I still have a lot of birds in my Moraga yard. My most interesting are the 2 pairs of woodpeckers. One pair of Nuttall’s and one pair of Downeys. There is a pecking order at the suet. First is the male Nuttall, then the male Downey, next the female Nuttall and finally the female Downey. It is all very orderly.
    I also have Calif Towhees and Spotted Towhees, Titmice, a wren, Anna’s hummer, Lesser Goldfinches and American Goldfinches, house sparrows, house finches, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, scrub jay. I attribute my wealth of birds to the high quality seed I get from the Wild Bird store.
    Nearest cross street is Larch.

  38. Terri Bostater Says:

    Hi, Gary,
    I’ve read and loved your column for years, but this is the first time I’ve written. As I am in “career transition”, I have the time to keep an eye on my feeders. The day you solicited an itemized status of birds in my yard, I noticed the following: black phoebe, house finches, American gold finches, chestnut-backed chickadee, plain titmouse, scrub jays, a pair of California towhees, white crowned sparrows, crow, and mourning doves. Not bad for high density, townhouse living. I live in Pleasanton, near very busy Santa Rita and Stoneridge Roads.

    I’d send you some photos but I don’t know how to do it.

    Best wishes,

  39. peter johnsen Says:

    two comments. One; most birds are still here. I am in the pleasant hill flat land a few blocks west of Contra Costa Blvd. we have always had Goldfinches but not for two years. We have Stellar Jays, four often, new last year. Lots of woodpeckers (Nuttalls) titmice, chickadees (chestnut back) doves, robins, finches, I’m forgetting some but there are most of what we had and the new ones are fewer than the old ones.

    Second comment. I saw and amazing sight as I was coming to the head of the upstairs staircase. I turned to the window and saw a full sized Turkey Vulture in rapid descent right at the window I was looking through. he/she was coming down and swooped up immediately. I don’t know how it made it without hitting the window or the eave. I could not have had a closer view. I was AT the glass and so was he/she. Except for the glass I might have reached out and touched it. (also except I’m not so quick as I would have needed to be.)

    If need be, I can provide a more generous list of our birds.

    Thanks for your good work


  40. Warren Dreher Says:

    Just a couple of items for your bird survey. We have several feeders in the backyard and use lots of bird seed. 10-20 lbs a week. We live in North Concord, in the Holbrook Heights area with lots of mature trees. I don’t know all the types of birds we get but I’ve been reading up on them so here’s what I think we have:

    In the backyard:
    Scrub Jays, quite a few
    white crowned sparrows, zillions
    gold crowned sparrows quite a few
    crows, quite a few from time to time, they will swarm.
    chickadees a few
    juncos a few
    Robins 5 or 6
    wrens a few
    house finches lots (red heads)
    golden finches, more every day
    Doves, less than before, just a few this year
    Hummingbirds-None for at least a month. We used to have a half dozen or so.
    Hawks, small and brown, not sure what kind but they like eating the sparrows. We have quite a few of them. They sit outside a large Oleander in our driveway, even on my truck sometimes. The Oleander is always full of small birds chirping away at all times of day so I think that is what attracts them.

    Some recent arrivals are a family of either kites or large ospreys. They show up every evening right at dusk and perch in the tall redwood trees on my street.
    The leader comes in first and slowly another 7 or 8 birds join him (or her). They glide around for five or ten minutes, hunting I guess, and then settle into the trees for the night. They are breathtakingly beautiful. It’s really quite spectacular to see them when they arrive. I keep trying to get a decent photograph but as they fly in just as it’s getting dark it is quite difficult. They have only been showing up here for the last month or two.

    It’s almost dusk now so I am going to go outside once again and try to get a decent photo of them. Hope this helps.


  41. Mona Hansche Says:

    Comment to Warren’s blog above ~ I witnessed a similar display of white Egrets nesting for the evening in Cayucos couple of months back. I was watching the sunset on the ocean and dozens of them flew in from down the coast into a large grove of eucalyptus trees for their evening perch. Flocks of 4 to 8 of them flew in group after group circling the tree tops for a good spot to land and then dissapeared into the canopy of leaves. The display went on for a half an hour and was spectacular!

    Anyway, every year I tell myself I’m going to participate in the BYBC and forget! I have loads of birds…..and squirrels, racoons, possoms, skunks, deer, even a bobcat we spot occasionally through the chain link fence on Shell property. I live in downtown Martinez on Grandview where there are many large established trees and my backyard backs to Shell open space where there are lots more trees. I have different feeders in the front and back. In front I have a woodpecker suet feeder and a thistle feeder. I have a pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers that are nesting in a neighbor’s redwood tree. They are vorcous eaters right now (maybe babies have hatched?)and I have to refill the suet about every other week. Jays, sparrows and chicadee’s snack there as well. American Goldfinches love the thistle feeder but I must admit I have fewer this year than in the past. Last year I counted 13 of them on the feeder at one time, this year maybe 4-5 at a time. Small flocks of Junkos feed on the scraps that drop to the ground. Last week on seperate occasions I saw a beautiful white Kite fly through the neighborhood and on a seperate evening a young deer trot down the street.

    My back yard is FULL of birds. I have a hanging feeder with a cage for the small birds and put out a bowl of squirrel food daily fortified with sunflower seeds for the squirrels and ground feeding birds. Is fun to watch the Jay’s and squirrels jocky for position at the seed/corn bowl :-)I have Towhees three or four at a time and have even seen a Spotted Towhee occasionally. Lot’s of Junkos, Scrub Jays and Stellar Jays. I hear the mockingbirds but I never see them feeding in the yard.

    At the caged feeder I have lots of House Finches both male & female, Titmice, Chicadees and both White Crowned and Song Sparrows and Mourning Doves feed on the ground below. As I am typing this blog I’m looking in my backyard at two feeding squirrels and at least 2 dozen birds all munching away.

    Also I have a huge pine tree in my back yard where a Screech Owl frequently sleeps during the day. She is beautiful but leaves messy droppings from both ends on my deck after she has snacked on a mouse or two :-(

    Finally are the Humming Birds. Not so many right now but starting soon I will have LOTS. I have abutilons both front and back and the Hummers LOVE them. No need for sugar water in my yard!

    I hear from some WildBird workers who live on the hill on the other side of downtown they have sighted Orioles but I have not been successful luring those even with a feeder in a seperate location.

    Love your column Gary, I’m a daily faithful reader for many years. Keep up the great work!

  42. Donna Mazaika Says:

    Rural Moraga end of Camino Pablo

    crows large flock
    Ravens pair
    Egret 1
    Blue Heron 1
    Turkeys many
    Turkey vultures many
    pigeons many
    Quail none
    mourninbg doves many
    white crowned sparrow many
    red tailed hawk pair
    sharp shinn or coopers hawk 1
    kestrels pair
    wood peckers
    rofus towhees several
    oregon junkos many
    house finch many
    starlings many
    blackbirds many
    red wing balck birds several
    gold finches several
    scrub jays 5
    killdeers many
    western bluebirds a few
    swallows a few
    eagle 1
    hummingbirds about 3 maybe 4
    geese flew over the other day

  43. Ken Says:

    Pleasanton at Hopyard and Valley:

    In the front:
    Crows – 5 or 6
    Black Phoebe – one and several in the park at the corner
    American Robin – a few usually, as many as 20-25 a few weeks ago
    Cedar Waxing – one large group occasionally
    Western Scrub Jay – 1
    Hawk 1
    Woodpecker – I saw one a few houses down last week, no ID

    American Goldfinch – lots
    House Finch – 6
    Lesser Finch – lots
    Chestnut backed Chickadee – 2
    White crown Sparrows – lots
    Mouring Doves – 2
    Hummingbirds – 1 at present, many last summer

  44. Jody Calabrese Says:

    I live in Lewisville Texas. We use to have a bunch of Cardinals the singing would wake us up in the morning. I use to feed the sparrows 3 times day. I have not seen these birds in the past two weeks. Also, we use to have rabbits around and they have disappearred also. My mother lives a mile from me and she use to feed sparrows, blue jays, scizzor tails. The same goes for her she hasn’t seen the birds lately. The sparrows use to make nests in our vents.

    Where did the birds go? The temperature is is normal for this time of the year.

  45. Nancy Kaplan Says:

    August 10, 2009 Walnut Creek, CAlifornia. I have had several families of house finches, and lots of goldfinches. The house finches have had at least two sets of babies born and all of a sudden this week, they are all gone. Is that normal? Where did they go?? We have enjoyed listening to them sing and watching them with their families. They seem to be such good parents, so attentive and ever watchful. We miss them.
    We have had a few Robins, no Mockingbirds!, unusual, more Doves, Waxwings went through in spring, Calif Jays, a pair, spotted what looked like Chikadees, not much else. There was so much singing in the mornings, and now all is quiet. Curious.

  46. LInda Kerr Says:

    September 22, 2009
    For the past few weeks, we have not had one bird of any kind on the feeders. We had finches, cardinals, titmice, sparrows, woodpeckers, ect. We have been feeding them all year and this summer, we had so many we lost count. Of course we have a few hawks that have been with us all year. The weather has been the same, where are they?

  47. LInda Kerr Says:

    Sorry, I forgot to tell you I am in Connecticut.

  48. karen Says:


    I too have had a lot of birds this summer. finches titmice,carninals,nuthatches,woodpeckers,chicadees,doves,bluejays and a northern flicker.this past month the only 2 birds I hear are the bluejays & Cardnial but ther are not coming to the feeders.
    I have cleaned the feeder several times thinking that might be the problem. I feed them sunflower hearts,and the feeders are located close to the woods
    Where the heck have they gone????

  49. Gary Bogue Says:

    Karen: Birds move around a lot during the fall and winter months, looking for food, etc. Some migrate to new areas further south. others may migrate shorter distances … a few miles … a few blocks … maybe just down the street. New birds will also move into your area from further north. Fall and winter can be a fun time for bird watchers. yes, some of your familiar bird species may have relocated to new areas (they’ll be back), but you should also be seeing new birds soon to replace them. Have fun! /Gary

  50. Birdzilla Says:

    I was able to ovserve a pair of WESTERN KINGBIRDS raising their young they nested on a utility pole i walked by everyday and watched as their nestlings eventualy flew and but no before they tried their wings for the first time

  51. Denise Says:

    I am from Masschusetts and have had the same loss of birds(See Karen & Linda). I stll have tufted titmouse, chickadees, and woodpeckers. That is it. I had at least 11 different birds this summer including Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, and hummingbirds. While I realize that it is the natural order for these birds to winter elsewhere, it is not the natural order for the finches, morning doves, chipping sparrows, nurthatches, and cardinals to disappear; but, they have. I haven’t seen any Junco’s yet either. It is snowing out; so, it it time to see them and they aren’t here. What is going on?

  52. Portia Says:

    I have the same problem as Denise. Where did the sparrows, ground doves and finches go ? Still have tree clingers also. Who knows the answer ? They were here all summer . Feeders are full and no birds to eat it. Also had mor than usual hummingbirds this summer and some Orioles.

  53. Leslie Says:

    All summer I had a hard time keeping my feeders full. I feed sunflower seeds and have had a wide variety of birds such as chickadees,sparrows, finches, titmouse and Juncos. I have suet for Blue Jays and Flickers. Now this is the second week that I haven’t had any small bird to the feeders and only one flicker. what is changing?

    18521 NE Everett st,Portland OR

  54. Leslie Says:

    All summer I had a hard time keeping my feeders full. I feed sunflower seeds and have had a wide variety of birds such as chickadees,sparrows, finches, titmouse and Juncos. I have suet for Blue Jays and Flickers. Now this is the second week that I haven’t had any small bird to the feeders and only one flicker. what is changing?

    NE Everett st,Portland OR

  55. Carol Lyons Says:

    I have two nesting pairs of White-Tailed Kite in my yard. First time seen in Vallejo

  56. Alice Johnson Says:

    Gary, I’ve had a nice feeder for American Goldfinches hanging outside my kitchen window, NOT under an eave, in Antioch CA for a couple years now, but I don’t think a goldfinch has ever approached it. We make sure the seed is kept fresh. What could be the problem?

  57. Katya Carlen Says:

    I have the opposite problem now that I’ve chased the neighbors’ crouching cats away–daily–but one thing that brings them back is a mixture of Niger seed and hulled black sunflower seed. The hulled sunflower is pricey, but mix it up with the Niger and a little “ordinary” wild birdseed. One other idea: you might try taking the feeder down, giving it a really good scrub, even a little Clorox, rinsing well, letting it dry for a day or two, then refilling with seed. Good luck!

  58. Monica Herman Says:

    Concord, near John Muir Hosp.(Concord Campus)

    House Finch – Many = No Change
    White Crowned Sparrow – Few = No Change
    Morning Dove – few= No Change
    Plain Titmouse – none, usually a few
    Golden Finch – Few– usually many*
    California Towhee – one, comes every year
    European Sparrow- many, slightly less

    *its seems gold finches only like that one white sock type feeder, everything else they ignore, even if a new thistle feeder is in the same spot.

  59. Don Gazpacho Says:

    Don Gazpacho
    Acton, Ca 93510
    Sierra Highway & Shannondale road.

    Ravens – Every year there seems to be more.

    Blue Heron 1 -started showing up in 2009 and ate my goldfish – None since March 2010

    Road Runners – seeing fewer each year.

    Turkey vultures – never saw them here in 20 years but suddenly a few sightings since 2008

    pigeons – a few at fish pond
    Quail – many
    mourninbg doves many – one got a drink 3′ from a Coopers Hawk bathing in fish pond!
    sparrows/finchs – many
    red tailed hawks fewer – due to Ravens
    sharp shin and coopers hawk – many
    kestrels – drastic decline (rarely seen now)
    wood peckers – several
    towhees – many, including aggressive (Aberts?), that chase Scrub Jays away from peanuts!

    oregon junkos – occasional but fewer

    starlings – many
    blackbirds – several
    red wing balck birds- none
    gold finches – several
    scrub jays – many
    killdeers – none
    western bluebirds – a few nest in boxes in yard
    swallows – a few

    Golden Eagles – residents sighted all the time until 2006. Now none.

    Prairie Falcons – residents sighted all the time until 2006. Now occasionally.

    Harrier hawks & Kites – once a few now none.

    Osprey – 2 fly overs a couple of years apart (rarely)
    Barn Owls – many. Nest in box I put up since 1987.
    Horned Owls – a few
    Burrowing Owls – None since 1988, when there were a few.
    Phenopepla – many
    Tit Mouse – a few residents
    hummingbirds – many
    Robins – Occasional few
    Horned Larks – once many now just a few
    Meadow Larks – once many now less

  60. Emma Says:

    2011 June, this past winter north NYC left us with little, heard blue jays scream often, no crows due to the west nile hitting hard here..a few song sparrow, a cardinal or two, no juncos, chicadees, house finches gone for well over a decade, lots of english sparrow, starlings and still pigeons. Perigrines and redtail hawks increasing, huge female nesting here a few years now raided two bluejay nests easily seen. One oriole some redwing blackbirds, a few egrets, night herons, canada geese flying, lots of catbird sounds, NO mockingbirds (but these are wintering) they are rare now. Seen not far away, sharpshinned and coopers hawks. Many many black vultures spotted in the sky, two hawks seen here taking a bird from the skies bringing it down easily..Little green heron seen in a small lake and a family of wood ducks, very nice to see this spring/summer..

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