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Backyard Birds Of Silicon Valley

So you know the difference between i++ and ++i, but not between the birds living outside your office window. But don't worry, I'm here to help! Make your lunch break more interesting and learn some typical small backyard birds you might see here on the Peninsula!

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1. Dark-Eyed Junco

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These little guys are so common, hopping around on the ground. Here in the Bay Area they have this distinctive black head (Oregon race), so they're easy to identify (ID). Also look for the white on the outsides of their tail when they're in flight. More white corresponds to more aggression -- and more females. Whoa!

4. Anna's Hummingbird

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Who doesn't love hummingbirds? These little guys are...actually pretty big as far as hummingbirds go. But still teeny tiny! For part of the year, they're the only hummingbird you have to worry about ID'ing. But regardless of the season, they're always the most vocal hummingbirds around! The females don't have the red on their head, and it might even be hard to see the red on the males, depending on the light. The other species to watch out for are Allen's Hummingbird in the summer and Rufous Hummingbird during migrations.

6. Nuttall's Woodpecker

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If you see a woodpecker with a mohawk, congratulations, you may have spotted a Nuttall's woodpecker! Of course, woodpeckers are never that easy...females don't have the red, and there are several similar species. BUT if you see a woodpecker that looks like this and does NOT have a big white spot on its back (like the Hairy and Downy woodpeckers), you've done it! Best way to find these guys is to listen for the characteristic drumming of a woodpecker. Once you start tuning in, I'm sure you'll see some!

7. Northern Mockingbird

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If you're listening to a bird call that just keeps changing, it might be the Northern Mockingbird! These birds are pretty aggressive, but very fun to hear. Also look for flashes of white on their wings when they're in flight.

8. California Scrub-Jay

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You're never going to see a Blue Jay in California, but the California Scrub-Jay is a good alternative! Loud and large, once you start seeing these blue birds (but not bluebirds), you'll find them everywhere.

PS -- If you know these other species but have only ever heard of the Western Scrub-Jay, it's probably because the species was just split into two!

9. California Towhee

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If I asked you to "draw a bird," it would probably look like this guy. About the size of a robin, and just tan, tan, tan. But, if you look closely under it's tail, you'll see some orange. Surprise! Once you start identifying this common bird and noticing its orange, I guarantee you'll be more into your SV backyard birds.

10. Sparrows (on sparrows!)

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We sure have a lot of similar-looking sparrows out here. You can learn the difference between the white-crowned sparrow (pictured), the golden-crowned sparrow, the song sparrow, the Shakespeare-inspired house sparrow, and more...... Or, you can say you saw a "sparrow" and move on to other, more easily identifiable birds. I'll leave that one up to you.

11. Lesser Goldfinch

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The small size of these birds always surprises me. They are so cute and so yellow! They can be hard to ID because they flit around so much, but if you get a glimpse of a teeny tiny yellow bird, it's probably this one. (American Goldfinches are also yellow, but distinctive.)

12. House Finch

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Last but not least: the House Finch! For such a common bird, they are quite colorful. Look at that head! Of course, the females don't get so lucky. Such is nature. If you have a feeder, you'll be staring at these guys all day long.

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