While the pages for Amphibians, Reptiles, and Mammals include all species on a single page, this summary of the Birds of the Mt. Washington Area begins with families because of the large number of species covered. On this page, all bird families containing species that are known to occur or could potentially occur are addressed. Where a family has multiple species that are known or suspected to occur in the Report Area a link is provided to a page for that family listing the species and their known status. Taxonomy and nomenclature follow the American Ornithological Society. All photos, when provided, are by the author.
AUTHOR NOTE: This avian family page is being published before the species accounts are completed. This page will be updated with links as species accounts are completed. Active “Go to Species” buttons are green, while inactive ones are gray.
Anatidae – Ducks, Geese, and Swans
Most species in this family are found only along the LA River, but may frequently occur as flyovers or, in the case of Mallards and Canada Geese, temporarily in neighborhood yards.
Odontophoridae – New World Quail
While some species, such as California Quail, are common in many areas around Los Angeles, there are no members of the New World Quail family that are known to be currently present within the Report Area. Per eBird, California Quail are present at Debs Park so there is some chance of recolonization.
Podicipedidae – Grebes
None of these species occur any significant distance from water as they have limited mobility on land and require being on water to take flight. Several are present on the LA River.
Columbidae – Pigeons and Doves
Several species, native (e.g., Mourning Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon) and non-native (e.g., Rock Pigeon and Eurasian Collared-Dove), are common in the Report Area.
Cuculidae – Cuckoos, Roadrunners, and Anis
Only two species in this family, Greater Roadrunner and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, occur regularly in California. The former is common in many areas but absent in the Report Area and all surrounding open space areas per eBird. The latter is listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and does not occur regularly anywhere in Los Angeles County.
Caprimulgidae – Nightjars
This family is comprised of species that are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular. The only regularly-occurring species in the Report Area or adjacent is Common Poorwill, which can sometimes be heard calling from open space areas at night during migration in the spring. The potential occurrence chart below is for Common Poorwill. Link to eBird page for Common Poorwill.
Apodidae – Swifts
Two members of this family are seasonally common in the area, but can sometimes be difficult to observe well because of the speed at which they fly (they are called, after all, “swifts” for a reason). The White-throated Swift is the only one expected in the area year-round.
Trochilidae – Hummingbirds
Two members of this family, Anna’s Hummingbird and Allen’s Hummingbird, are common in the area year-round. Others are seasonal or unexpected.
Rallidae – Rails, Gallinules, and Coots
American Coot is the only member of the Rallidae that regularly occurs in the Report Area. It is common on the LA River. Despite this, there are others that could occur, so the family gets its own page.
Gruidae – Cranes
While common in many parts of California, Sandhill Cranes are not expected in the Los Angeles basin (though do sometimes show up at larger wetlands). This species could very rarely be seen (or heard!) in the Report Area as a flyover. Do not confuse cranes with herons and egrets, several of which are common in the Report Area.
Recurvirostridae – Stilts and Avocets
This family has two species in California, only one of which (Black-necked Stilt) is regularly occurring in the area and breeds on the LA River.
Charadriidae – Lapwings and Plovers
Several species of the Charadriidae have potential to occur along the LA River. Only one of these, Killdeer, is common year-round and breeds in the area.
Scolopacidae – Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies
Several species of the Scolopacidae such as Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper are seasonally common on the LA River. Others only occur sporadically.
Laridae – Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers
Several species occur in the Report Area, generally along the LA River. Also sometimes as flyovers of the Specific Plan Area.
Gaviidae – Loons
None of California’s loons are expected in Southern California away from the coast or larger lakes. Common Loon has been recorded in several portions of the LA River per eBird, but not in the area covered by this report. If observed, it would only be during the winter months. The potential occurrence chart below is for Common Loon. Link to eBird page for Common Loon.
Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants
Four members of this family occur in California, with two restricted to the coast, one common on inland waterways (Double-crested Cormorant), and one rare on inland waterways (Neotropic Cormorant).
Pelecanidae – Pelicans
While two species of pelicans occur in California, Brown Pelican is restricted to the coast and offshore waters. American White Pelicans are regularly observed as flyovers throughout the area covered by this report (usually during the winter), but would not be expected in or along the waters of the LA River other than as a flyover. The potential occurrence chart below is for American White Pelican as a winter flyover. Link to eBird page for American White Pelican.
Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns, and Allies
Several species of herons and egrets occur commonly on the LA River. None of them occur regularly within the Specific Plan Area except as flyovers.
Threskiornithidae – Ibises and Spoonbills
White-faced Ibis is the only expected member of this family in the area. This species has been reported on the LA River near Rio de Los Angeles State Park per eBird. Could also occur in the Rio de Los Angeles State Park wetland when that wetland has water. Most likely to be observed outside of the breeding season. The potential occurrence chart below is for White-faced Ibis. Link to eBird page for White-faced Ibis.
Cathartidae – New World Vultures
Turkey Vulture is the only expected species in the area. It is often common throughout, especially during migration when large numbers can be observed along ridgelines following updrafts. California Condors are known to make flights over the LA Basin from time to time, but typically not as far south as the area covered by this report and, if that occurred, the flight would likely be so high that the bird probably wouldn’t be detectable from the ground. The potential occurrence chart below is for Turkey Vulture. Link to eBird page for Turkey Vulture.
Pandionidae – Ospreys
This family contains one species. Ospreys are most frequently detected during the winter months, when several spend the winter hunting along the LA River and often soaring high, sometimes over the Specific Plan Area (observed frequently at the author’s home), at mid-day. This species is not expected during the breeding season, but has been sometimes detected along the LA River such as the bird in the image at left, photographed along the river at Rio de Los Angeles State Park in June 2023. The potential occurrence chart below is for Osprey. Link to eBird page for Osprey.
Accipitridae – Hawks, Kites, Eagles, and Allies
Multiple species, such as Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk are present year-round and breed in the Report Area. Others are present seasonally.
Tytonidae – Barn Owls
This family is comprised of one species in North America: Barn Owl. Barn Owls are present throughout the Report Area and are a locally breeding species. The potential occurrence chart below is for Barn Owl. Link to eBird page for Barn Owl.
Strigidae – Typical Owls
Two species of “typical owls” are present year-round in the Report Area: Great Horned Owl and Western Screech-Owl.
Alcedinidae – Kingfishers
One species, Belted Kingfisher, occurs regularly throughout the United States. Belted Kingfishers are relatively common along the LA River. This species is associated with bodies of water and, as such, there is no habitat elsewhere in the Report Area. The potential occurrence chart below is for Belted Kingfisher. It has been observed at Rio de Los Angeles by the author, but is not normally expected there. Link to eBird page for Belted Kingfisher.
Picidae – Woodpeckers and Allies
Several species of woodpeckers occur in the Report Area. The only common one year-round, however, is Nuttall’s Woodpecker (shown at left). Northern Flicker is common throughout during the winter months.
Falconidae – Caracaras and Falcons
Several species of falcons have potential to occur in the Report Area. Only one, American Kestrel, is expected year-round. Others are seasonal or uncommon.
Psittacidae – African and New World Parrots
Twenty years ago, parrots were uncommon in the Mt. Washington area. Presently, they are a daily occurrence. Three species are observed or heard most commonly: Red-crowned Parrot, Mitred Parakeet, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet.
Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers
The tyrant flycatchers are a diverse family, with quite a few species that occur in the Report Area depending upon the time of year. By far the most common year-round resident in all areas of the Report Area is Black Phoebe.
Vireonidae – Vireos
Several vireos occur seasonally in the Report Area, most as migrants. One resident breeder, Least Bell’s Vireo, is listed as Endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
Laniidae – Shrikes
Of the two shrikes that regularly occur in North America, Loggerhead Shrike is the only one expected in Southern California. While still common in portions of the Inland Empire and deserts, this species is declining in the coastal zone. Sightings of this species in the Report Area would be significant. eBird has records for this species along the LA River in the 1990s, but because of its decline the LA River is not listed as green. The potential occurrence chart below is for Loggerhead Shrike. Link to eBird page for Loggerhead Shrike.
Corvidae – Crows and Jays
Probably our most intelligent native bird family. Three species are common in the Report Area.
Paridae – Chickadees and Titmice
Two species of Paridae are present in the Report Area. Neither of them, however, are common.
Alaudidae – Larks
Horned Lark is the only member of this family present in the Report Area. This species is only likely to be present during the winter months, where flocks are sometimes found in open areas of Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Could also be detected in other locations, but only as a flyover, if you know the flight calls. The potential occurrence chart below is for Horned Lark. Link to eBird page for Horned Lark.
Hirundinidae – Swallows
Sometimes confused with swifts, which are a completely unrelated family, several species of swallows occur in the Report Area with regularity, some as breeders.
Aegithalidae – Long-tailed Tits and Bushtits
The common and gregarious Bushtit is the only member of this family in North America. It is fairly abundant year-round throughout the Report Area, where it is usually encountered as roving flocks of 10-30 birds. Flocks give a high-pitch alarm call in response to aerial predators. The potential occurrence chart below is for Bushtit. Link to eBird page for Bushtit.
Pycnonotidae – Bulbuls
Red-whiskered Bulbul is the only established member of this introduced family of birds native to Asia. This species has become common throughout the Report Area in the last decade. Highly vocal, bulbuls are prized as cage birds for their musical songs. The potential occurrence chart below is for Red-whiskered Bulbul. Link to eBird page for Red-whiskered Bulbul.
Sylviidae – Sylviid Warblers
Wrentit is the only member of this family in North America. A denizen of well-developed chaparral, occurrences of this species in the Report Area are sparse, except in Elyria Canyon where at least one pair has been present for more than a decade. Has been reported sparingly in other areas of the Specific Plan Area, Rio de Los Angeles, and along the LA River (where it is not normally expected) The potential occurrence chart below is for Wrentit. Link to eBird page for Wrentit.
Regulidae – Kinglets
This family is represented by two species in North America. Both have some potential to occur in the Report Area, but only one is seasonally common.
Bombycillidae – Waxwings
This family is represented by one species in the Report Area: Cedar Waxwing. Cedar Waxwings are usually encountered in large flocks, almost always during the winter, when they roam in search of berries. They will sometimes associate with flocks of American Robins. Flocks are commonly heard flying overhead IF you can hear their high-pitched calls, which are barely within the frequency range of average human hearing. The potential occurrence chart below is for Cedar Waxwing. Link to eBird page for Cedar Waxwing.
Ptiliogonatidae – Silky-flycatchers
Phainopepla is the only member of this predominantly tropical family in California. Often called “Goth Cardinal”, they are not related to Northern Cardinals in any way. Mistletoe berries are a key food source. This species is enigmatic, following food sources. As such, it is sometimes fairly common in the Report Area and absent in others. Most likely to be found, when present, at Elyria Canyon and Heidelberg. The potential occurrence chart below is for Phainopepla. Link to eBird page for Phainopepla.
Sittidae – Nuthatches
Of Southern California’s three species of nuthatches, only two occur in the Report Area. Both are also rare in the Report Area, except during periodic irruption years like 2023.
Certhiidae – Creepers
Brown Creeper is the only representative of this family in North America. Predominantly associated with the mountains in Southern California, there are no eBird records for this species in the Report Area but there are in adjacent similar environments. It should be looked for in wooded areas in the Report Area, especially in the winter. The potential occurrence chart below is for Brown Creeper. Link to eBird page for Brown Creeper.
Polioptilidae – Gnatcatchers and Gnatwrens
While three species of gnatcatchers occur in Southern California, only one occurs in the Report Area. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is relatively common throughout in the winter months and is most easily found by its calls. It has not been observed in the Report Area during the breeding season, but breeds nearby in the San Rafael Hills so could be present. The threatened California Gnatcatcher was likely present in the Report Area prior to the 1950s. The nearest current occurrence area for that species is the Montebello Hills. The potential occurrence chart below is for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Link to eBird page for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Troglodytidae – Wrens
Of the array of wren species that occur in California, only two are expected in the Report Area.
Mimidae – Mockingbirds and Thrashers
While the Northern Mockingbird is the only member of this family common in the Report Area, California Thrasher is also present.
Sturnidae – Starlings
European Starling is the only member of this introduced family in the Report Area. This species is a cavity nester and known for aggressively stealing cavities from other species. In the Report Area, however, it often nests in artificial cavities in metal utility poles, stoplights, etc. This species is most likely to be found near the LA River. It is usually only seen as a flyover elsewhere. The potential occurrence chart below is for European Starling. Link to eBird page for European Starling.
Turdidae – Thrushes
There are more thrushes to enjoy than the well-known American Robin. All thrushes are seasonal in the Report Area.
Estrildidae – Waxbills and Allies
While several species of introduced Estrildid finches could be found in the Report Area, Scaly-breasted Munia is the only widespread and established one at the current time. They are often found in small flocks, frequently in areas with fountain grasses. They are relatively common at all locations covered by this report. The potential occurrence chart below is for Scaly-breasted Munia. Link to eBird page for Scaly-breasted Munia.
Passeridae – Old World Sparrows
There is one member of the introduced Passeridae in most of North America. House Sparrow is destructive to native species, often killing nest cavity occupants and stealing the cavity as their own. The occurrence of this species in the Report Area is similar to that for European Starling. The potential occurrence chart below is for House Sparrow. Link to eBird page for House Sparrow.
Motacillidae – Wagtails and Pipits
American Pipit is the only expected species of the Motacillidae in the Report Area. It is common, and typically found in flocks, along the LA River and at Rio de Los Angeles during the winter months. May be heard calling as a flyover in the Specific Plan Area, but not expected to be observed using habitats there. The potential occurrence chart below is for American Pipit. Link to eBird page for American Pipit.
Fringillidae – Fringilline and Cardueline Finches and Allies
Often colorful and with vibrant songs, finches tend to be a favorite. Several species are common in the Report Area.
Passerellidae – New World Sparrows
While present year-round, sparrow diversity is greatest in the Report Area during the winter months. One species, Dark-eyed Junco, is also a new breeder.
Icteriidae – Yellow-breasted Chats
A Species of Special Concern in California, the Yellow-breasted Chat is mostly associated with riparian habitats. For the last several years one breeding pair has been present at Rio de Los Angeles. It is also sometimes reported from the LA River during migration. Has also occurred as a migrant at Elyria Canyon, but is not expected there normally. Could be found, if looked for during migration, at Heidelberg. The potential occurrence chart below is for Yellow-breasted Chat. Link to eBird page for Yellow-breasted Chat.
Icteridae – Blackbirds
Blackbirds, for whatever reason, tend to be underrated. Several species, some of which are colorful (orioles, for example), are present in the Report Area.
Parulidae – Wood-Warblers
The Parulidae is one of the author’s favorite bird families. Unfortunately, there are far fewer species in the West than in the East. Regardless, one of them, Yellow-rumped Warbler, could be the most common bird in the Report Area during the winter months.
Cardinalidae – Cardinals and Allies
The Cardinalidae is a family of largely-colorful birds, especially so now that genetics work has shown the northern tanager species to not be “tanagers” at all, but part of the Cardinalidae.