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The Santa Monica neighborhood birder

July 8, 2012

At dusk July 7th we were waiting for fireworks on the bluff in Santa Monica and were treated to a 30-second fly-by by a Barn Owl, including vocalizations. We had not seen the species in our neighborhood since summer 2010. That reminded me to make some general comments as to the evolution of bird life in the northwestern corner of Santa Monica, much as a Culver City resident has made on LA County Birds recently.

The American Crow population continues to grow and be obnoxiously noisy. Yesterday afternoon there were six young ones on low-hanging phone lines in my tiny backyard. However this presence does not seem to be adversely impacting passerines in the area. Since last year we’ve had breeding Song Sparrows nearby; I counted at least 6 families in the 4-(large)block area where I walk daily. There is no lack of Oak Titmouse which are heard year-round daily. The population of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers is thriving, many of them nesting in the soft crowns of mature Canary Island palms. I have counted up to six individuals on a half-hour walk. I saw Downy Woodpeckers a number of times also, but apparently not resident. Mourning Doves seems to be on the rebound after three rather dismal years, and Western Scrub-jays are present almost daily at the edge of Santa Monica Canyon. most notably there, and a couple of blocks south, are singing Dark-eyed Juncos, which were very rare previously.

The usual wintering flock of Cedar Waxwings seemed smaller this past winter, but it was first spotted in October rather than December, and remained until mid-May. On the other hand Yellow-rumps left town in a hurry in the first two days of April. At least one Orange-crown Warbler was present in to late June.

Surprises included a flock of Vaux’s Swifts in spring, a vocalizing California Quail on a Georgina Ave. rooftop, but no Red-shouldered or Red-tailed Hawks which used to be rather frequent in winter and spring near the canyon. Cooper’s Hawks were also less frequent. (because of Crows?) This past winter I only had four sightings of Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

No change, however, in the apparent number and frequency of the typical city birds European Starling, Rock Pigeon, House Finch, House Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Bushtit, Bewick’ Wren.

How’s your neighborhood doing on the bird front? Do you notice changes year to year? Longer-term changes? Please feel free to post.

One Comment
  1. janeb permalink
    July 8, 2012 5:18 pm

    Thanks for this fascinating report on the bird life in Santa Monica. I just converted my Playa del Rey backyard to an edibles/native plant environment with a bird bath/fountain, and the birds and butterflies are finding me like never before. I just joined Cornell’s citizen science project, YardMap, at It helps you get the most from your yard, all while helping scientists collect data about how gardening practices affect birds. I’ve seen Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Western Scrub Jays, Mourning Doves, Crows, Northern Mockingbirds, White-Crowned Sparrows in season, House Sparrows, House Finches, and Lesser Goldfinches that are in perpetual motion at the nyjer feeder. Within a few blocks walk I’ve recently seen Black Phoebes, California Towhees, Ravens, Song Sparrows. Longer walks take me to the species-abundant Ballona Wetlands and the beach. I’m a Least Tern volunteer at the Venice Beach enclosure. I counted 200 one thrilling day in June, but haven’t seen any the last 2 weeks.


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