August: Goodbye Orioles, Hello Warblers

Your feeders still should be drawing Southern California's most common backyard birds, House Finches. Now, they likely will show up with their young. Males are easy ro spot with their red heads and breasts, but the females are plain grayish brown with streaks along the side and belly. Look for their sturdy beaks, curved along the top, and listen for their cheerful, musical chirps. The juveniles look like the females, but with even more streaks on their head and sides.

Left: Two juvenile House Finches perched near a feeder (All About Birds)


Orioles and Grosbeaks are just beginning to migrate south for winter. Many are gone by the end of the month, though some females and juveniles stay for part of September. For the orioles put out nectar and Birdberry Jelly so they can be ready for the long trip. The Grosbeaks love sunflower seed.                      Right: Black-Headed Grosbeak 

August is when Southern California starts to get an interesting new mix of birds, athe earliest fall songbird migrants start to arrive. While many do not stay—they are just moving through on their way elsewhere—they make for interesting bird watching. These visitors include:

--Lazuli Bunting (left)
--Western Wood Peewee migrating through on the way to South America
--Western Meadowlark (fond of  grassland areas)
--Many swallows come through, most headed for South America. They like to stay near water. The Tree Swallows, right, are known to come through the Ballona Wetland. They can be joined by the Northern Rough-Winged Swallow (which has been hanging out in coastal wetlands), and the Cliff Swallow and Barn Swallow, both headed for South America.
--Swainson's Thrushes migrate south while their cousins, Hermit Thrushes, come back in October.

Get out your worms! Earliest fall warblers are starting to arrive along the coast. These enthusiastic insect eaters are migrating through, starting this month. Watch for a flash of yellow and the black cap of the Wilson's Warbler, who will be gleaning the bushes of bugs until the end of September. Also around until October is the beautiful Yellow Warbler, smaller but more intensely colored, and minus the black cap.

Hummingbirds are finishing their last clutches of chicks. In the hot weather, keep your feeders fresh, changing nectar every four or five days.

If you are seeing a less activity at your feeders, possibly birds are taking advantage of the mature native grasses, shrubs and flowers this time of year. They are an excellent food source but they don't last long, and soon the throngs likely will be back at your feeders..

Flocks of shorebirds are passing through; Heermann's Gull young arrive from Mexico.

Perseids Meteor shower is mid-month.




Left: Wilson's Warbler (male) from All About Birds

The earliest fall songbird migrants arrive this month. The yellow Wilson's Warblers, with distinctive black-caps on the males, are often the first to pass through. They're headed up the coast, though a few stick around for the winter if they find a nice willow thicket in the coastal lowlands. Also loving the willows are the Yellow Warblers, who look similar but without the black cap. They can be found even along the LA River in Elysian Park. A third common August visitor is the greenish-yellow Orange-Crowned Warbler. The orange streak on its head is barely visible, but the eyes have light yellow outlines.. 

Orange-Crowned Warbler from All About Birds

Right: Orange-Crowned Warbler male from All About Birds

Also departing soon are colorful Black-Headed Grosbeaks, who like fruit and berries as much as sunflower seeds. Until they go, enjoy their cheerful chirpy song.



Left: Female Red-Necked Phalarope (All About Birds)

Common large seagulls, such as the Heerman's Gulls and the Western Gulls, are at their greatest numbers. A special migrant is the petit Red-Necked Phalarope (left). Unlike most birds, the females are more brightly colored than the males. Phalaropes can be spotted until October in coastal estuaries, such as Malibu Lagoon or the Ballona Wetlands.




We have our local hummingbirds almost all year, though the Black-Chinned Hummingbirds may depart starting the end of August for warmer climes. For the Anna's and Allen's Hummingbirds August will see the the last fledglings coming to your feeders. Desert-loving Costa's Hummingbirds, with bright purple heads on the males, may flee the hottest desert areas for the coast in August.

Right: Black-Chinned Hummingbird at a feeder

The justly famous Perseid Meteor Shower will peak, as it always does, the night of August 12, though there will be plenty of activity several days before and after that date. This year the moon will be half full on the 11th, but the show still should be good.