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Here are a few species to scan your backyard for during the summer months.

Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)

The majority of bird watching activity in Southern California takes place during the winter months.  Southern California’s mild climate offers a hospitable wintering ground for numerous species that breed in northern regions during the summer, and come fall, a large influx of various species begins, continuing throughout winter.

That’s not to say there’s nothing exciting to be seen over summer, however.  Although most nonresident birds have long since made their way north by June, there are a handful of species that spend their summers in Southern California and then hit the road to Mexico and Central America during the winter.  Here are a few to keep your eyes peeled for.

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole, a common summer visitor in Southern California

Hooded Orioles (Icterus cucullatus) breed throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, and spend their winters in southern Mexico.  They prefer to breed in open habitat with scattered trees, and are very common in urban and suburban areas.  Look for these striking yellow and black birds in trees and shrubs, as they forage for insects and sip nectar from flowers.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeaks often arrive in spring and stay throughout summer

Black-headed Grosbeaks (Pheucticus melanocephalus) arrive in Southern California in springtime, and remain throughout the summer months before heading to central Mexico for the winter.  They can be spotted singing from perches in mixed habitats, gardens, orchards, and suburban developments.  They are primarily insectivorous, and curiously are one of the Monarch Butterfly’s only predators.  Monarchs are poisonous if consumed by most animals, but Grosbeaks and a few other bird species are immune to these toxins.

Western Kingbirds are common summertime breeders in open areas of western North America

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) are large flycatchers with ashy gray upperparts and bold yellow underparts.  They are common summertime breeders in the Western states, tending to favor open habitats such as grasslands, pastures, desert shrub, and urban edges.  Look for Western Kingbirds perched on trees, fences, or power lines, where they sit and scan the area for flying insects.

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