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Bolsa Chica Bird Checklist

The area covered by this checklist includes the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Harriett Wieder Regional Park, and several small open-space areas of private ownership adjacent to the north end of the reserve. The Ecological Reserve is a 1,445-acre wildlife area operated by the California Department of Fish & Game. The reserve has two parking lots, one on Warner Avenue just east of Pacific Coast Highway and another on Pacific Coast Highway about 1.5 miles south of Warner Avenue (access is right-in, right-out only). Harriett Wieder Regional Park is a 104-acre park operated by the County of Orange and is adjacent to the south end of the reserve. The park has a parking lot accessed from Seapoint Avenue in Huntington Beach.

Bolsa Chica is one of the premier birding locations in southern California. This list includes 186 regularly occurring species. A supplemental list includes 116 less frequently seen species, defined as species that are seen at Bolsa Chica less often than once per year.

Bolsa Chica has two distinct seasons with distinct populations of migratory birds. In summer, Bolsa Chica hosts breeding colonies of numerous tern species, including the largest colony of Elegant Terns in the USA. In winter, shorebirds and waterbirds predominate, while terns have largely gone south.

Abundance for each species is designated by the symbols below. The numerical categories for each abundance level reflect approximations on the part of the compilers. Abundance codes apply to the bird in its expected habitat. Species are listed in accordance with the American Ornithologists' Union Checklist of North American Birds, 7th edition (1998) as amended through the 52nd supplement.

Seasons
Winter(W) = December, January, February
Spring(Sp) = March, April, May
Summer(Su) = June, July
Fall(F) = August, September, October, November
* indicates species that have nested at Bolsa Chica
Abundance Code
A = Abundant (over 50 individuals / day)
C = Common (11-50 individuals / day)
Fc = Fairly common (6-10 individuals / day)
U = Uncommon (up to 5 individuals / day)
R = Rare (1-10 sightings / season)

Geese and Ducks

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BRANT
CANADA GOOSE*
GADWALL*
AMERICAN WIGEON
MALLARD*
BLUE-WINGED TEAL*
CINNAMON TEAL*
NORTHERN SHOVELER
NORTHERN PINTAIL*
GREEN-WINGED TEAL
REDHEAD*
GREATER SCAUP
LESSER SCAUP
SURF SCOTER
BUFFLEHEAD
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER
RUDDY DUCK*
Fall/Winter
R / U
C / A
Fc / A
C / A
C / C
C / C
C / C
Fc / C
A / A
C / A
C / C
R / U
C / A
U / A
Fc / A
U / C
A / A
Spring/Summer
Fc / R
C / U
C / C
C / -
C / C
C / R
C / Fc
A / -
Fc / R
C / -
C / C
U / -
A / -
U / R
C / -
Fc / R
A / U

Loons

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
RED-THROATED LOON
PACIFIC LOON
COMMON LOON
Fall/Winter
R / R
R / R
R / U
Spring/Summer
R / -
R / -
R / -

Grebes

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
PIED-BILLED GREBE*
HORNED GREBE
EARED GREBE*
WESTERN GREBE
CLARK'S GREBE
Fall/Winter
C / C
Fc / Fc
C / C
Fc / C
U / U
Spring/Summer
Fc / Fc
U / -
C / R
Fc / -
U / -

Cormorants

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT*
Fall/Winter
A / A
Spring/Summer
C / A

Pelicans

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN
BROWN PELICAN
Fall/Winter
C / C
A / C
Spring/Summer
C / C
A / A

Bitterns and Herons

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
AMERICAN BITTERN
LEAST BITTERN*
GREAT BLUE HERON*
GREAT EGRET
SNOWY EGRET
REDDISH EGRET
GREEN HERON*
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON*
Fall/Winter
R / U
- / -
C / C
C / C
A / A
U / U
U / U
C / C
Spring/Summer
R / -
R / R
C / C
C / C
A / A
U / U
U / U
Fc / Fc

Ibises

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
WHITE-FACED IBIS
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
- / -

Vultures

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
TURKEY VULTURE
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / U

Ospreys

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
OSPREY
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / U

Hawks, Kites, Eagles

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
WHITE-TAILED KITE*
NORTHERN HARRIER
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK
COOPER'S HAWK*
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK
RED-TAILED HAWK*
Fall/Winter
U / U
U / U
R / R
U / U
R / R
Fc / U
Spring/Summer
U / U
U / R
R / -
U / U
R / R
U / U

Falcons

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
AMERICAN KESTREL*
MERLIN
PEREGRINE FALCON
Fall/Winter
Fc / Fc
R / R
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / U
- / -
U / U

Rails and Coots

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
VIRGINIA RAIL*
SORA*
COMMON GALLINULE
AMERICAN COOT*
Fall/Winter
R / R
U / U
R / R
A / A
Spring/Summer
R / R
U / U
R / -
A / C

Plovers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER
PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER
SNOWY PLOVER*
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER
KILLDEER*
Fall/Winter
A / A
R / R
U / U
A / A
C / A
Spring/Summer
C / C
R / -
C / C
A / A
C / C

Stilts and Avocets

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BLACK-NECKED STILT*
AMERICAN AVOCET*
Fall/Winter
A / A
A / A
Spring/Summer
A / A
A / C

Sandpipers and Phalaropes

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
SPOTTED SANDPIPER
SOLITARY SANDPIPER
GREATER YELLOWLEGS
WILLET
LESSER YELLOWLEGS
WHIMBREL
LONG-BILLED CURLEW
MARBLED GODWIT
RUDDY TURNSTONE
BLACK TURNSTONE
SURFBIRD
RED KNOT
SANDERLNG
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER
WESTERN SANDPIPER
LEAST SANDPIPER
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
PECTORAL SANDPIPER
DUNLIN
STILT SANDPIPER
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER
WILSON'S SNIPE
WILSON'S PHALAROPE
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
Fall/Winter
U / U
R / -
C / C
A / A
U / U
Fc / U
C / C
A / A
Fc / Fc
R / R
- / -
Fc / Fc
Fc / Fc
R / -
A / A
A / A
R / -
R / -
C / C
R / -
A / A
A / A
R / -
A / -
A / -
Spring/Summer
U / -
- / -
Fc / Fc
A / A
U / R
Fc / Fc
Fc / Fc
A / C
U / U
R / -
R / -
Fc / R
Fc / R
- / -
A / C
A / Fc
- / -
- / -
C / -
- / R
A / Fc
A / Fc
- / -
R / C
U / C

Gulls, Terns and Skimmers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BONAPARTE'S GULL
HEERMANN'S GULL
RING-BILLED GULL
WESTERN GULL
CALIFORNIA GULL
HERRING GULL
THAYER'S GULL
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL
LEAST TERN*
GULL-BILLED TERN
CASPIAN TERN*
BLACK TERN
COMMON TERN
FORESTER'S TERN*
ROYAL TERN*
ELEGANT TERN*
BLACK SKIMMER*
Fall/Winter
R / R
R / R
C / A
A / A
U / U
- / R
R / U
R / -
- / -
Fc / Fc
R / -
Fc / -
A / C
U / R
R / -
U / -
Spring/Summer
R / -
R / R
C / Fc
C / A
Fc / Fc
U / -
R / -
U / -
A / A
R / R
A / A
- / R
R / Fc
A / A
A / A
A / A
A / A

Pigeons and Doves

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
ROCK PIGEON*
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE
MOURNING DOVE*
Fall/Winter
C / C
R / R
A / A
Spring/Summer
C / C
R / R
A / A

Barn Owls

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BARN OWL
Fall/Winter
R / R
Spring/Summer
R / R

Typical Owls

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
GREAT HORNED OWL*
BURROWING OWL
Fall/Winter
U / U
R / R
Spring/Summer
U / U
R / -

Swifts

_MARINE-LIFEEugene Cardiff, Sea & Sage Audubon
Species Name
VAUX'S SWIFT
WHITE-THROATED SWIFT
Fall/Winter
U / -
R / R
Spring/Summer
U / -
R / -

Hummingbirds

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD*
RUFOURS HUMMINGBIRD
ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD*
Fall/Winter
R / -
C / C
- / -
C / C
Spring/Summer
R / -
C / C
R / -
C / C

Kingfishers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BELTED KINGFISHER
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / -

Woodpeckers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
NUTTALL'S WOODPECKERS
DOWNY WOODPECKERS
NORTHERN FLICKER
Fall/Winter
U / U
U / U
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / U
U / U
U / U

Tyrant Flycatchers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER
WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE
WILLOW FLYCATCHER
PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER
BLACK PHOEBE*
SAY'S PHOEBE*
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD
WESTERN KINGBIRD
Fall/Winter
R / -
U / -
R / -
U / -
C / C
Fc / Fc
U / -
Fc / Fc
U / -
Spring/Summer
U / -
U / U
R / R
U / U
C / C
Fc / U
U / R
Fc / Fc
U / -

Shrikes

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE*
Fall/Winter
R / R
Spring/Summer
R / R

Vireos

_MARINE-LIFEDave Telford
Species Name
WARBLING VIREO
Fall/Winter
U / -
Spring/Summer
U / -

Jays and Crows

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
AMERICAN CROW*
COMMON RAVEN*
Fall/Winter
C / C
U / U
Spring/Summer
C / C
U / U

Larks

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
HORNED LARK*
Fall/Winter
U / R
Spring/Summer
C / C

Swallows

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
TREE SWALLOW
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW
CLIFF SWALLOW*
BARN SWALLOW*
Fall/Winter
U / R
- / -
U / -
- / -
U / R
Spring/Summer
C / Fc
R / -
C / C
C / C
C / C

Bushtits

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BUSHTIT*
Fall/Winter
A / A
Spring/Summer
A / A

Wrens

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
HOUSE WREN*
MARSH WREN*
Fall/Winter
Fc / U
U / U
Spring/Summer
Fc / Fc
U / U

Gnatcatchers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHER
CALIFORNIA GNATCATHER*
Fall/Winter
U / U
R / R
Spring/Summer
U / R
R / R

Kinglets

_MARINE-LIFETrish Gussler
Species Name
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / -

Thrushes

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
WESTERN BLUEBIRD
SWAINSON'S THRUSH
HERMIT THRUSH
AMERICAN ROBIN
Fall/Winter
U / U
R / -
U / U
R / R
Spring/Summer
U / U
R / -
U / -
R / R

Mockingbirds

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD*
Fall/Winter
R / R
Spring/Summer
R / R

Starlings

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
EUROPEAN STARLING*
Fall/Winter
R / R
Spring/Summer
R / R

Pipits

_MARINE-LIFEDave Telford
Species Name
AMERICAN PIPIT
Fall/Winter
C / A
Spring/Summer
C / -

Waxwings

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
CEDAR WAXWING
Fall/Winter
C / C
Spring/Summer
C / -

Warblers

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER
NASHVILLE WARBLER
MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT
YELLOW WARBLER
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER
TOWNSEND'S WARBLER
WILSON'S WARBLER
Fall/Winter
U / U
R / -
R / -
C / C
Fc / R
C / A
R / -
U / R
Fc / R
Spring/Summer
U / R
R / -
R / -
C / C
Fc / R
C / -
R / -
U / -
C / -

Towhees

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
SPOTTED TOWHEE
CALIFORNIA TOWHEE*
Fall/Winter
U / R
C / C
Spring/Summer
U / U
C / Fc

Sparrows

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
BREWER'S SPARROW
VESPER SPARROW
LARK SPARROW
SAVANNAH SPARROW - COMMON
SAVANNAH SPARROW - BELDING'S*
SAVANNAH SPARROW - LARGE-BILLED
FOX SPARROW
SONG SPARROW*
LINCOLN'S SPARROW
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW
DARK-EYED JUNCO
Fall/Winter
R / -
R / -
R / -
C / C
A / A
R / R
R / R
C / C
U / U
A / A
U / U
R / R
Spring/Summer
- / -
- / -
- / -
Fc / -
A / A
- / -
R / -
C / C
U / -
A / -
R / -
R / -

Tanagers, Grosbeaks and Buntings

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
WESTERN TANAGER
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK
BLUE GROSBEAK
LAZULI BUNTING
Fall/Winter
U / -
- / -
R / -
R / -
Spring/Summer
Fc / -
R / -
R / R
R / R

Blackbirds and Orioles

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD*
WESTERN MEADOWLARK
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD
HOODED ORIOLE*
BULLOCK'S ORIOLE*
Fall/Winter
U / A
A / A
U / U
U / U
U / -
U / -
U / -
Spring/Summer
A / U
A / R
U / U
C / C
U / -
U / U
U / R

Finches

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
HOUSE FINCH*
LESSER GOLDFINCH*
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH
Fall/Winter
A / A
C / C
C / U
Spring/Summer
A / A
C / C
C / C

Old World Sparrows

_MARINE-LIFE
Species Name
HOUSE SPARROW
Fall/Winter
U / U
Spring/Summer
U / U

Less Frequently Observed Species

Species Name
FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
SNOW GOOSE
ROSS'S GOOSE
CACKLING GOOSE
WOOD DUCK
EURASIAN WIGEON
CANVASBACK
COMMON POCHARD
RING-NECKED DUCK
HARLEQUIN DUCK
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER
BLACK SCOTER
LONG-TAILED DUCK
COMMON GOLDENEYE
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
HOODED MERGANSER
COMMON MERGANSER
RED-NECKED GREBE
RAD-TAILED TROPICBIRD
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD
BRANDT'S CORMORANT
PELAGIC CORMORANT
LITTLE BLUE HERON
TRICOLORED HERON
CATTLE EGRET
BALD EAGLE
FERRUGINOUS HAWK
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
PRAIRIE FALCON
CLAPPER RAIL
LESSER SAND-PLOVER
WILSON'S PLOVER
MOUNTAIN PLOVER
WANDERING TATTLER
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER
SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER
CURLEW SANDPIPER
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
RUFF
Fall/Winter
RED PHALAROPE
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE
SABINE'S GULL
LAUGHING GULL
FRANKLIN'S GULL
MEW GULL
LESSER BLACK-BACKED FULL
GLAUCOUS GULL
SOOTY TERN
BRIDLED TERN
ARCTIC TERN
SANDWICH TERN
POMARINE JAEGER
PARASITIC JAEGER
SPOTTED DOVE
WHITE-WINGED DOVE
COMMON GROUND-DOVE
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO
SHORT-EARED OWL
COMMON POORWILL
BLACK SWIFT
COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD
CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD
RED-BRESTED SAPSUCKER
HAIRY WOODPECKER
LEAST FLYCATCHER
HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER
GRAY FLYCATCHER
DUSKY FLYCATCHER
EASTERN PHEOBE
VERMILION FLYCATCHER
TROPICAL KINGBIRD
BELL'S VIREO
CASSIN'S VIREO
CURLEW SANDPIPER
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Spring/Summer
HUTTON'S VIREO
RED-EYED VIREO
PURPLE MARTIN
BANK SWALLOW
VERDIN
RED-BRESTED NUTHATCH
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH
ROCK WREN
BEWICK'S WREN
PACIFIC WREN
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD
SAGE THRASHER
CALIFORNIA THRASHER
RED-THROATED PIPIT
PHAINOPEPLA
LAPLAND LONGSPUR
CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR
OVENBIRD
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER
PALM WARBLER
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE
CASSIN'S SPARROW
CHIPPING SPARROW
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW
NELSON'S SPARROW
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW
SUMMER TANAGER
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK
BOBOLINK
TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD
RED CROSSBILL
PINE SISKIN
LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH
Seasons
Winter(W) = December, January, February
Spring(Sp) = March, April, May
Summer(Su) = June, July
Fall(F) = August, September, October, November
* indicates species that have nested at Bolsa Chica
Abundance Code
A = Abundant (over 50 individuals / day)
C = Common (11-50 individuals / day)
Fc = Fairly common (6-10 individuals / day)
U = Uncommon (up to 5 individuals / day)
R = Rare (1-10 sightings / season)

This bird checklist is a publication of the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and was first published in 1994 and subsequently in 1997 based on research and compilation by Louann W. Murray, Ph.D.

This third edition was compiled by Conservancy volunteers Terry Hill, Victor Leipzig, Ph.D. and Claire Grozinger, and Conservancy staff led by Katalin Patonai. Data were drawn from Christmas Bird counts by Sea & Sage Audubon, monthly surveys by the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, and the observations of Brian Daniels, Peter Knapp, Doug Willick, Dick Erickson, Sylvia Gallagher, and many other Orange County birders.