Looking for the Out-of-Towners

Yellow-rumped
Photos courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited

Birds Make Their Way Down the Pacific Flyaway

By JULIE HANSON | Special to the Palisadian-Post

It’s November and the beautiful orioles and tanagers who decorated your yard through June, July and  August suddenly are gone. You worry that the next  few months will be drab or boring without their bright colors and chirps.

But, wait! What’s that strange yellow bird at my feeder? And there’s another that I’ve never seen in the tree, searching for berries!

Well, welcome to the fall migration, a time of year when you can see, if only briefly, birds that you’ve never seen before. And Southern California, especially our shorelines, are important stops on the Pacific Flyway that birds follow when migrating.

Don’t put away those binoculars, because you may use them more than ever, and dust off your hiking boots, because there are new bird adventures awaiting on mountain trails.

In your backyard, look for the return of warblers of all kinds. In October, the popular yellow-rumpeds (called butter butts by their friends) arrive, who stay through April. They like to hang out near eucalyptus trees, which flower in winter, and will happily join other common local birds, such as bluebirds, juncos and sparrows, foraging on the ground beneath your feeders.

Sparrows may be common, but fall brings the energetic white-crowned sparrows, with their vivid black-and-white striped heads. They hop beneath garden bushes or jump to feeders, looking for seeds. They mix freely with their cousins, the golden-crowned sparrows, whose “crown” is more a light stripe of yellow on their heads.

And, though they can be heard all year, a still fall evening brings a special poignancy to the cascading waterfall of notes of the canyon wren call, heard in all our local canyons from Mandeville to Malibu.

Along the shore and in the lagoons, the Pacific Flyway brings both rare and common visitors. The Malibu Lagoon already has had visits by rarities, such as spotted and Baird’s sandpipers.

Also, the usual coastal residents, such as sanderlings, have returned from breeding locations that can be as far away as Alaska. Least terns, the smallest of their breed and considered endangered, have a breeding colony at Marina del Rey. Back from the northern Rockies or Great Plains, the Forster’s terns show off their fishing prowess, hovering above the water, then diving for small fish. They often are joined by their cousins, the royal terns.

And, remember, most of these birds lay eggs in simple depressions in the sand, which means that beach strollers should keep watch so they don’t step on a young family.

All the birds mentioned above and many more can be seen on the bird walks led by local chapters of the Audubon Society. Visit the Malibu Lagoon, led by the Santa Monica Bay Audubon, on the fourth Sunday of every month at 8 a.m. for adults and teens; 10 a.m. for families. Tour the Ballona Wetlands, led by Los Angeles Audubon, on the third Sunday of every month at 8 a.m.

For a complete listing of local bird walks, visit santamonica.wbu.com/Bird-Walks.

Julie Hanson is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, located at 12433 Wilshire Blvd. For more information, call 424-272-9000.