9 Birds That Are ORANGE in California! (ID Guide)
Did you see a bird that was ORANGE in California?
I’m guessing that you need some help figuring out which species you saw. Well, you have come to the right place!
Today, we will review 9 types of ORANGE birds that live in California.
To help you make a positive identification, I have included several photographs of each species and detailed range maps.
Lastly, a few kinds of hawks and falcons also have orange plumage, but I have not included them below. If you saw an orange raptor, you should check out the following articles for additional help!
#1. American Robin
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty orange 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 ORANGE birds in California!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats and are found everywhere, from forests to the tundra. And lucky for us, these thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see in backyards.
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. For example, I see robins frequently in my backyard, pulling up earthworms in the grass!
These orange birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive turquoise blue colored eggs.
#2. Barn Swallow
- The throat, forehead, chest, and belly are a rusty orange color. The back and head are a brilliant blue.
- Broad shoulders that extend down to long, pointed wings.
- Look for the long, forked tail.
Look for these orangish birds in California feeding in open areas, such as meadows, fields, or farms.
Barn Swallows are also frequently seen consuming insects over bodies of water. Interestingly, many people find that these birds will follow them while they mow their yard, as the swallows feast on the bugs kicked up by the mower!
Barn Swallow Range Map
Barn Swallows used to nest in caves primarily, but they have successfully adapted to humans and now almost exclusively build their nests on artificial structures. Look for these nests made out of mud, under bridges, tucked under the eaves of barns and stables, or on any man-made building near open fields.
#3. Bullock’s Oriole
- Males are bright orange and easily identified by a black line that runs across their eyes and a black throat.
- Females look different and have a yellowish head, chest, and tail with a grayish body.
Bullock’s Orioles are common orange birds in California.
Look for them in open woodlands or parks, where there are large trees spaced out a bit.
You can try to attract these birds to your backyard by offering sugary foods, which help them replenish energy after a long migration from Mexico. Like other oriole species, the best foods to use are orange slices, jelly, and nectar.
#4. Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatches are active little songbirds with beautiful orange coloring on their underparts. Look for compact birds that have almost no neck and a very short tail.
These small nuthatches breed in northern North America, the western mountains, and the upper northeast. But during winter, they can truly show up almost anywhere. These birds travel where needed to make sure they have enough food. In some years, they have been seen as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Mexico!
Red-breasted Nuthatch Range Map
Red-breasted Nuthatches are mostly found in California in coniferous forests. Their preferred habitat contrasts sharply with White-breasted Nuthatches, that prefer living in deciduous forests.
These orangeish birds are common visitors to bird feeders in California!
Watch a Red-breasted Nuthatch in my backyard! (And learn more about my two LIVE cams here!)
#5. Spotted Towhee
- Chunky body, short neck, and rounded tail.
- Males are mostly black with white spots on the wings and a white belly with orange rusty-colored sides.
- Females are similar-looking but are mostly grayish brown.
Spotted Towhees are often fleetingly seen while flying between patches of cover. You can also look for these orange birds hopping around fallen leaves, close to cover, foraging for food. They use the double scratch technique to find seeds and insects in the soil.
Spotted Towhee Range Map
This species is found mainly in dense, shrubby habitats near the ground, including forest edges, overgrown fields, and sometimes backyards. They like to eat seeds on the ground under feeders when they’re not too far from cover.
#6. American Redstart
- Males are black with bright orange patches on the tail, wings, and sides. The belly is white.
- Females are charcoal gray with a white belly and light yellow patches instead of orange.
Their bright orange coloring helps make them easy to spot in California!
Unfortunately, they’re only found on the coast and the southern border. Look for American Redstarts in their breeding range in open woods of mostly deciduous trees. However, they’re much less picky when migrating, and they will roost in nearly any area with trees.
American Redstart Range Map
This beautiful species is high-energy and constantly moving. American Redstarts use their bright orange coloring for hunting insects, flashing their tail feathers to startle them into flight. Once the insect takes off, the bird snatches it right out of the air! That’s one stylish way to “catch” a meal! 🙂
The American Redstart song is often compared to a sneeze, with a few short notes at the beginning and an abrupt, loud end: “ah-ah-ah-CHEW!”
#7. Black-headed Grosbeak
- Both sexes have large heads, thick beaks, short and thick necks, and a short tail that gives them a compact, chunky look.
- Males are an orange-cinnamon color with a black head and black and white wings.
- Females and immature males feature grayish beaks, and their underwing flashes bright yellow when flying.
Black-headed Grosbeaks like to hide in thick foliage and are known to hop around while searching for food. Their giant beaks are perfectly adapted for cracking seeds, but they also use them to crush hard-bodied invertebrates like snails!
Black-headed Grosbeak Range Map
You can attract Black-headed Grosbeaks by providing sunflower seeds. But interestingly, they have a sweet tooth and are known to visit nectar feeders! In addition, these orange birds will nest in your yard in California if there’s enough cover and water nearby.
#8. Varied Thrush
- Males are bluish on their back with burnt orange underparts, an orange eye line, and orange throat.
- Females are similar to males but paler.
- Look for the black breast band across their chest.
It can be hard to spot one of these beautiful orange birds in California.
That’s because Varied Thrushes are quite shy and live in dense, dark forests! Most often, they are heard before being seen. Listen for their simple, ringing song.
Varied Thrush Range Map
During summer, Varied Thrushes primarily eat insects. But during winter, they switch to seeds and berries, which means you may be able to attract them to your feeders!
Make sure to place some sunflower seeds on the ground, as this is where they prefer feeding. It would also be wise to plant native fruiting trees and shrubs in your yard for an additional food source.
#9. Hooded Oriole
Males range from flame orange to bright yellow, depending on where they live, so you can’t rely on color alone to identify these orioles. Females are more consistent and usually appear olive-yellow with a grayish back. Look for a slightly curved bill on both sexes.
These birds are sometimes called “palm-leaf orioles” because of their fondness for hanging their nests on the undersides of palm fronds. In fact, Hooded Orioles are slowly expanding their range northward as people keep planting ornamental palms to landscape their homes and neighborhoods.
These orioles can be hard to see due to their inconspicuous nature. But you should have no problem hearing them if they are around, as both sexes sing! Listen for a series of chatters, warbles, and whistles that last between 1 to 4 seconds. Sounds range quite a bit among individual birds, and it doesn’t have the sweet song characteristic of other oriole species.
Which types of orange birds have you seen in California?
Let us know in the COMMENTS below!