California hosts an amazing diversity of birds
Brown Pelican soars over California. Photo: John D. Anderson
California is famous for the spirit of its people, farms that feed millions, innovation that transforms the world, our magnificent coastlines, and Hollywood, to name a few. Audubon California would add our abundant bird life to that list. The more than 600 bird species that have been spotted in California make up about two-thirds of all birds species in North America, including the tiny Calliope Hummingbird, the elegant Black Phoebe, and the great California Condor. More commonly seen California birds total around 450 species, making our state one of the country’s most diverse. The natural habitats that draw millions of breeding, migrating, and resting birds to California – the shorelines, wetlands, oak woodlands, deserts, and forests– include 175 places most important to birds (Audubon calls them Important Bird Areas), the most of any state in the Lower 48.
Birds are crucial components of healthy natural systems, serving as pollinators, predators, scavengers, seed dispersers, and engineers in riparian, wetland, and coastal habitats. Birds are indicators of broader ecosystem function and environmental health because they respond rapidly to climatic and other changes, and are relatively easy to see and study. Birds and humans need the same things – clean air, water, and land – so the future health of birds and that of humans is inextricably linked.
California is a linchpin of the Pacific Flyway, the migratory route traveled by millions of birds every year. California wetlands, beaches, and other areas provide important habitat, stop over, feeding, and nesting sites for birds that travel from the Arctic to spots over 7,000 miles away in Chile, sustaining species that can be found throughout the Flyway.
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