Joyce Hsiao and Bob Stanley are longtime Arden Oaks residents who have been doing a lot of walking during the coronavirus isolation. They are amateur birders who spent a bit of time documenting what they have seen in our neighborhood. With the help of some binoculars and a good bird book, you too might see these and more. We hope you enjoy this and let us know if you see others we should add to the list.
Wild Turkey: The largest of the neighborhood birds by far, the turkeys are not at all
conforming to social distancing. The males are full of spring fever, puffing up and
displaying their feathers, while the females are having a great time ignoring them.
American Crow: No matter what time of year, crows look like shiny Christmas
ornaments perched at the very tops of the tallest redwood trees. Crows hang out
together in large groups (also known as a murder of crows). Around sunset every
night, you will see a murder of crows flying off to the west.
Mourning Dove: We’ve become so accustomed to the plaintive cooing of the dove
that we forget this is the soothing sound of Arden Oaks at its best. Sometimes people
think the dove’s sound is the hooting of an owl, but the dove’s sound is softer – it
almost sounds like a human moan at times – and of course you don’t hear doves at
Western Scrub-jay: Despite the grating sound of its persistent squawk, the scrub jay is
a gorgeous cobalt blue that rivals the color of the sky.
Western Bluebird: Here’s another stunning shade of blue, if you happen to catch the
sun glinting off their back or wings, a perfect complementary color to their rust-
colored breast. We often see them in pairs, sometimes alighting on top of street signs
and stop signs, which would make a perfect picture postcard for the neighborhood.
Yellow-rumped Warbler: While not a very flattering name, the yellow rumps have
brush strokes of bright yellow that accent their mostly greyish wings, with yellow
patches on their throats, underwings, and yes, rumps. Quite spectacular when you see
those flashes of yellow! But it helps to have binoculars. Sometimes you’ll see them in
large flocks all on one tree.
American Goldfinch: This is the winner of the most yellow contest. Bright, bright
yellow, especially in the spring, this might be the flashiest of the birds in the
House Finch: Maybe not as glamorous as the goldfinch, the House Finch sports a red
head and red throat against a greenish brown body, quite stylish in its own way.
American Robin: I learned in grade school that it’s not officially spring until you see
and hear the famous robin red breast, but it seems we have them all year-round here
in the neighborhood.
Spotted Towhee: We see these birds everywhere, you can identify their song because
it sounds like a wheezing kazoo. Small and fairly bold, they have a reddish chest, a
black head, and white spots on their back. Sometimes you’ll see them on trees, but
more often, they like to poke around on the ground in shady areas; they can be very
close by but you have to watch and wait for them to reveal themselves. Listen for that
California Towhee: Not as showy as their spotted cousins, the California Towhee is
even more bold. I’ve walked within six feet of one, and it didn’t give up its spot
underneath the bird feeder. So much for social distancing. They are small and grey,
and like to stay in the brush, foraging in shade.
Oak Titmouse: This jittery bird is a tiny grey puffball with big eyes and a pointy
crown, but it might be hard to spot flitting through oaks. They come to our bird feeder
all year round, although they are more shy than the finches, who bully them around a
bit. Nevertheless, the titmice get their share of birdseed – they wait in the bushes until
the finches are gone.
White-breasted Nuthatch: The best tree climber around! You will find these birds
skittering up, down, and sideways on tree trunks and branches, and they seem to be
upside more often than not. They are very small, low and sleek, and have a long flat
head and a long beak to poke into holes in trees. It’s fun to watch their gravity-
defying antics on our camphor tree.
Northern Flicker: This is when it really pays off to carry binoculars, when you catch a
glimpse of the polka dot breast, long beak, and rust colored tail, pecking away up a
tree trunk. Large and visually striking, this woodpecker boasts a large black triangular
badge on its neck, and black stripes all over its body, as if it were sewn together from
elaborate black-and-white patterned fabrics. You’ll spot one perched high in a tall
tree with a black crest on its head.
Acorn Woodpecker: This small woodpecker gets lots of style points for its black and
white coat and bright red top hat.
Cedar Waxwing: We spotted flocks of ten or more perched high in various trees, with
their velvety beige breast, cedar colored under-wings, a sporty back-swept crest, and
long sleek black eye masks that extends from their beaks well past their eyes —
gives them an air of nobility, like Zorro.
Cooper’s Hawk: We saw a flock of seemingly contented cedar waxwings perched
high in a tree, and suddenly they all took off. Seconds later we see this mid-sized
hawk soar by. Two days later, we see probably the same hawk, perched on a high
stump on Maple Glen, pecking away at a bloody mess and a pile of feathers.
Dark-eyed Junco: Who is this black hooded bird?
Black Phoebe: Zipping around on fence posts or mailboxes, with its tail wagging up
and down, phoebes are everywhere and don’t seem to mind being close to people.
They gad about, back and forth, making short, dipping flights to catch bugs in the air.
Anna’s Hummingbird: These are the aerial acrobats that fly gracefully at top speed in
any direction, turning on a dime. Also, we’ve discovered that hummingbirds don’t
hum, but rather make a clicking noise, though if you’re close enough, you can
sometimes hear a low thrumming sound because they beat their wings so fast.
Great Blue Heron: This was just a passing flyover, but what an elegant bird, like a
streamline arrow floating across the sky.
Canada Goose: Another flyover, but much, much noisier and clunkier.
Mallard: We’ve seen a male and a female mallard poking around on Random Lane,
usually near the slough, and the two are never far apart from each other.
Starling: This is not a blackbird, but when spotted up close, you’ll see a polka dotted
array of glistening dark green, purple, brown, and black.
Western Screech Owl: Okay, you might not see one of these on your strolls through
the neighborhood, but we have one living in our garage (really), so we had to include
it our list. You will, however, hear their late-night hooting sound that accelerates in
tempo like the sound of a bouncing ball.
Rock Pigeon: We can’t discriminate against the common pigeon because it still
counts as a bird.
And - One white rooster with a bright red comb: And who knows why it was wandering among the turkeys.
We know there are many more bird species out there and many more bird songs to hear. This is just a starter list,but so fun to discover what surprises await. We welcome your thoughts and additions. (March 2020)
Pictures of many of these birds can be found under the tab "About Us - Bird Pictures"
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