What kinds of birds can you find in Yosemite National Park?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 300 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Yosemite National Park.
#1. Steller’s Jay
- Cyanocitta stelleri
- Larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and long tail. A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
- Both sexes are half black, half blue on their wings, belly, and tail.
You will find the Steller’s Jay in evergreen forests in Yosemite National Park. These bold birds, which are half blue, often visit campgrounds and picnic areas.
Steller’s Jay Range Map
This jay is very intelligent, bold, and noisy and are often nest robbers. They have even been known to attack or kill small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.
Males and sometimes females have calls that sound like “shaack, shaack, shaack,” shooka, shooka.” Listen below.
#2. Common Raven
- Corvus corax
- Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
- The bill is hefty and thick.
- In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.
Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Yosemite!
Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey.
Common Raven Range Map
Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats in Yosemite National Park. Look for them living near the edges of towns. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.
Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.
Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.
#3. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Yosemite National Park!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats. These thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs. American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)
Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”
#4. Acorn Woodpecker
- Melanerpes formicivorus
Acorn Woodpeckers are typically easy to find in Yosemite National Park.
You just need to find and take a walk in a forest with LOTS of oak trees and look for a bird that resembles a clown!
These woodpeckers rely on acorns as one of their primary food sources (hence the name). They have an interesting way of storing these acorns, as they put each nut into individually drilled holes in “storage” trees.
These trees, also called granaries, can house up to 50,000 nuts that the woodpeckers use for food when needed! The acorns are shoved so tightly into each space that other animals have difficulty getting them out. And amazingly, all of these tiny holes don’t kill the tree! But if you have a house with wood siding, and these woodpeckers have discovered it, you may have a hard time getting rid of them. 🙂
Acorn Woodpecker Range Map
Acorn Woodpeckers also have incredibly fascinating and complex social lives. For example, they live in family groups of up to twelve individuals. These groups cooperate in many aspects, including raising young, finding food, and guarding the food stored in their granaries.
These birds make very distinctive sounds, so make sure to listen for Acorn Woodpeckers if you find yourself hiking in an oak forest. Calls resemble “waka-waka-waka.”
#5. Brewer’s Blackbird
- Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Males are completely glossy black with bright yellow eyes. If they are in the sun, you may see hints of blue, purple, and metallic green reflecting off their plumage.
- Females are plain brown with pale or brown eyes. They are dark brown on the wings and tail. They DO NOT have streaking, which differentiates them from female Red-winged Blackbirds.
Brewer’s Blackbird Range Map
Look for Brewer’s Blackbirds in Yosemite National Park in a variety of habitats, such as marshes, forests, meadows, and grasslands. These birds also adapt incredibly well to the presence of humans and are common in backyards, golf courses, parks, and agricultural areas.
Brewer’s Blackbirds are social birds. For example, they nest in colonies of up to 100 pairs of birds. Having that many eyes together helps watch out for and defend against predators.
Listen for a metallic, creaky “ke-see” song, which lasts a bit less than a second. Brewer’s Blackbirds are vocal, and there are a few contact (“tschup“) and alarm (“chuck“) calls you may hear that they use to communicate with each other.
#6. Western Bluebird
- Sialia Mexicana
- Males are vibrant blue with rusty chest. Blue throat and gray belly.
- Females look similar, but the colors are more subdued.
Look for these bluebirds in Yosemite National Park at the edge of forests or open woodlands. Western Bluebirds are not often found in meadows and fields. Instead, these birds opt for the woods. Their favorite habitat seems to be areas that have been logged or burned, as these places are open but still contain many trees.
These bluebirds tend to stay close to the ground to fly down quickly to catch insects, which are their favorite food. They can usually be found perched on low limbs, signs, and fence posts. Western Bluebirds even stay low to the ground while flying!
Western Bluebird Range Map
This bluebird species only nests in enclosed cavities. Competition is high for these limited spots, and they regularly compete with nuthatches, House Wrens, European Starlings, House Sparrows, swallows, and even other Western Bluebirds.
You should try listening for Western Bluebirds next time you are out. These birds make a soft call, which phonetically often sounds like “kew” repeated several times. Press PLAY to hear a Western Bluebird!
#8. White-headed Woodpecker
- Dryobates albolarvatus
When it comes to woodpeckers found in Yosemite, this species is unique!
First, the White-headed Woodpecker has a truly distinctive appearance. The bird’s entire body is covered in black feathers, except for its bold white head! One look, and you know how it got its name. Males have a small red patch on the back of their heads, which females lack.
White-headed Woodpecker Range Map
Second, these woodpeckers require a very specific habitat. Look for them in mountainous old-growth pine forests in California, especially ones with open canopies and LOTS of pine cones.
White-headed Woodpeckers LOVE to eat pine seeds. They obtain their favorite food by prying and hammering against pine cones until they have gotten their reward. These birds also eat insects during warmer months, such as ants, beetles, and termites, like normal woodpeckers. And if you live within their range, make sure to put out a suet feeder, as they will visit backyards that offer a consistent food source.
White-head Woodpeckers have a call that sounds like a sharp “pee-dink” or “pee-dee-dee-dink.” But it’s not often heard, as these birds are mostly silent.
- Anas platyrhynchos
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most common ducks in Yosemite National Park!
Mallard Range Map
Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located.
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
#10. Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawks are one of the most prevalent birds of prey in Yosemite National Park!
These large raptors are often seen soaring in the sky or perched on a fence post. The color of a Red-tailed Hawk’s plumage can be anything from nearly white to virtually black, so coloration is not a reliable indicator. The best way to identify them is by looking for their characteristic red tail. 🙂
Red-tailed Hawk Range Map
These hawks are highly adaptable, and there is no real description of their preferred habitats because they seem to be comfortable everywhere.
Red-tailed Hawks have impressive calls that are easily identified.
In fact, people are so enamored with their screams it’s common for directors to use the sounds of a Red-tailed Hawk to replace Bald Eagles that appear in movies. In case you have never heard one, Bald Eagles don’t make sounds that live up to their appearance (putting it nicely!)
Which of these birds have you seen before in Yosemite National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Yosemite National Park, check out these guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!