Red Birds in California [Images + IDs]

Red Birds in California
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In California’s diverse natural landscapes, vibrant red birds quietly steal the spotlight. These striking creatures, with their fiery plumage and captivating songs, are a hidden gem in the Golden State’s wildlife. From the coastlines to the deserts and everything in between, these red birds add a touch of brilliance to California’s avian tapestry.

Join us as we delve into the world of these crimson wonders, exploring their unique characteristics, intriguing behaviors, and the conservation efforts dedicated to their preservation. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just curious about California’s biodiversity, this blog post will introduce you to the captivating world of California’s red birds, where every sighting is a testament to the beauty of nature.

List of Red Birds in California

Northern cardinals

birds with red breast

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  • Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 21 cm (8.3 in)
  • Weight: 33-65 g
  • Origin: Eastern and Central North America

Male Northern Cardinals are distinguished by their distinctive red plumage, beak, and spiky mohawk-like hair. Northern cardinals are dimorphic birds, with both sexes being nearly totally distinct in color.

Females have red parts on their tails and wings, and preserve the red beak, with the rest of their plumage being a pale brown.

In the wild, these birds typically live for 3 years, while some have been reported to survive for up to 15 years, which is an unusual lifespan for tiny birds like cardinals.

The majority of Northern cardinals may be found in southeast California, where they spend most of their time hunting and eating tiny insects, fruits, berries, and seeds in woodland borders, thickets, residential gardens, cities, and desert washes.

House finch

  • Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
  • Life span: Up to 11 years
  • Size: 12-15 cm (4.7-5.9 in)
  • Weight: 16-27 g
  • Origin: North America

Male house finches have predominantly brown plumage with a red gradient running up from the breast to the face. Females are typically brown and white and are less colorful.

At altitudes below 6,000 feet, these little birds spend most of their time in the dry desert, desert grassland, chaparral, oak savannah, streamsides, and open coniferous woods. They may be found in these habitats mostly grazing on weed seeds, berries, various fruits, and tiny insects in order to stock up on protein.

House finches have a rather long lifetime in the wild, where they may survive for roughly ten years, while captive finches have been known to live for twelve years.

Red-breasted sapsucker

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  • Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 20 cm (7.9 in)
  • Weight: 35-60 g
  • Origin: Western North America

Red-breasted sapsuckers are recognizable by their red, white, and black plumage. It has predominantly black feathers with dalmatian like patterns on the wings and back, a red head and neck with a pointed black beak that lets these avians burrow into trees to drain out its remnants.

Other than tree sap these sapsuckers also eat fruits, berries and tiny insects like ants found near the trunk of trees. You’ll encounter these red-faced birds hunting largely in pine woods among other settings where a lot of trees are present.

Red-breasted sapsuckers are known to have quite a short life in the wild often being around 2 – 3 years but living in captivity would certainly double if not treble this.

Vermilion Flycatcher Male

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  • Scientific name: Pyrocephalus rubinus
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 13 cm (5.1 in)
  • Weight: 8-12 g
  • Origin: North, Central, and South America

Male vermillion flycatchers are recognizable by their brilliant red feathers and grey wings. They also have a pointed black beak which is very different from the females who are predominantly grey with a slight trace of reddish color around their tail feathers.

These birds reside along streamsides, in drier more arid areas, savannahs, and ranches where they feed on little insects by hiding behind plants before springing out to capture the insects with their wings. they do also eat seeds and fruits however, little insects are the most abundant source of their diet.

These birds have a modest life in the wild, often surviving between 4 and 5 years, which isn’t all that lengthy, yet, like with most other birds, flycatchers are likely to live longer in captivity.

Red-headed woodpecker

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  • Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Lifespan: Up to 9 years
  • Size: Approximately 19-23 centimeters (7.5-9 inches)
  • Origin: North America (found in regions such as the United States and Canada)

Red-headed woodpeckers are distinguished by their redhead, black and white body, and wings. These woodpeckers spend most of their time in groves, farm areas, orchards, shade trees in cities, huge dispersed trees on forest margins, orchards, open pine forests, and larger tree groves.

A red-headed woodpecker’s food comprises a broad range of insects such as spiders, earthworms, various kinds of nuts, seeds, berries, and other fruits. These peckers may sometimes consume tiny rodents or the contents of other birds’ eggs.

Red-headed woodpeckers have been seen to survive for up to ten years in the wild.

Summer tanager

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  • Scientific name: Piranga rubra
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 16 cm (6.3 in)
  • Weight: 22-27 g
  • Origin: North, Central, and South America

Male summer tanagers are almost all red, with a gray/silver beak. Females, on the other hand, are nearly all yellow, making these birds as dimorphic as they get. Summer tanagers spend most of their time in the gaps and borders of open deciduous or pine-oak woods.

While on the move, these red birds will chase insects such as wasps, bees, and caterpillars, as well as consume fruits, tiny berries, and rare seeds.

Tanagers live for around 5 years in the wild, which is about average for other wild birds, while captive summer tanagers are likely to live longer, similar to most other birds.

Pine Grosbeak

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  • Scientific name: Pinicola enucleator
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 22-24 cm (8.7-9.4 in)
  • Weight: 40-80 g
  • Origin: Northern North America and Eurasia

Pine Grosbeaks are distinguished by their greyish-white wings and tail feathers, red body and head, and black beak and feet. Female grosbeaks are not nearly as colorful as males, having plumage that is mostly light grey with touches of orange around the body and tail.

Pine Grosbeaks spend most of their time in coniferous woodlands, where they may rest on a horizontal branch to hunt tiny insects, seeds, buds, berries, and other refreshing foods.

These birds have been observed to survive up to 9 years old, sometimes even longer, indicating that they have reasonably lengthy lifespans for birds of their size.

Red crossbill

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  • Scientific name: Loxia curvirostra
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 15 cm (5.9 in)
  • Weight: 26-39 g
  • Origin: North America and Europe

Red Crossbills are recognizable by their reddish-orange feathers with grey wing feathers and beaks that tend to cross over one another as their name crossbill implies. Females, like summer tanagers, have a richer golden color with grey parts blended throughout.

Because of their urge and need to eat pine seeds, these crossbills spend most of their time in coniferous woods. Red crossbills may be found as long as there are pine trees around. This is why some of these birds may be found in heathlands.

Red crossbills eat spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, larch, and tiny insects throughout their rather lengthy lives of 8+ years in the wild.

Hepatic tanager

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  • Scientific name: Piranga flava
  • Life span: Up to 7 years
  • Size: 18 cm (7.1 in)
  • Weight: 25-31 g
  • Origin: Western North America and Central America

The dark blood-red feathers, silver/gray beaks, and grey feet distinguish hepatic tanagers. Females are yellow, similar to summer tanagers. These birds mostly consume insects such as spiders, seeds, berries, and fruits.

These red birds may be found in open pine forests, especially in mixed pine-oak woodlands at higher altitudes.

Hepatic tanagers, like their summer counterparts, survive for around 5 years in the wild but may live for up to 11.9 years if they adapt well to their surroundings.

Common Redpolls

  • Scientific name: Acanthis flammea
  • Life span: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 4.5 and 5.5 in
  • Weight: 12 and 16 grams
  • Origin: southern Canada and the northern states

These common redpolls are distinguished by their red, white, and brown plumage, which includes a red and white forehead and breast, as well as brown and white wings. Females have a little patch on their forehead as well, but the rest of their body is brown and white.

A common redpoll may be found in boreal woods of pines, spruces, and larches.

These birds consume seeds from birch, alder, and spruce trees, as well as a variety of tiny invertebrates such as caterpillars, beetles, flies, and so on.

The highest lifespan for a redpoll was roughly 7 years and 10 months, however, the majority of redpolls spend far shorter lives, between 4 and 5 years.


birds with red breast

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  • Scientific name: Cardinalis sinuatus
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 20-23 cm (7.9-9.1 in)
  • Weight: 42-50 g
  • Origin: Southwestern United States and Mexico

The Pyrrhuloxia is a member of the Cardinal family, often known as Desert Cardinals, and lives in the sweltering deserts of Southwest America.

With its spruce grey and red feathers, this bird appears just as stylish even if it does not have fully red plumage like the cardinal. It may be distinguished from northern cardinals by its robust yellow beak and taller, more beautiful crest of feathers.

These musical desert birds are strong because of the hard climate and become more aggressive during the mating season. However, during the winter, when they congregate in big flocks, sometimes numbering up to 1,000, they become highly social, setting aside their differences.

White-winged Crossbill

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  • Scientific name: Loxia leucoptera
  • Life span: Up to 4 years
  • Size: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 29 g
  • Origin: Northern parts of the United States

White-winged Crossbill finches have long, crossed beaks. Males have red wings and tails, as well as two white wing bars. Females have two white wing bands and are yellow and brown.

White-winged When cone harvests are weak farther north, Crossbills reside in woods in Canada, Alaska, and possibly northern US states. They may be seen munching on seeds in spruce woods.

Unlike other birds, these birds may reproduce at any time of year as long as there is adequate food. They often heard in big groups.

Painted bunting

  • Scientific name: Passerina ciris
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 11-13 cm (4.3-5.1 in)
  • Weight: 12-17 g
  • Origin: North America

Painted Bunting: The Painted Bunting is a truly enchanting bird found in North America. The male Painted Bunting is often considered one of the most colorful birds in the world, with its vibrant plumage showcasing a kaleidoscope of colors. Its head is adorned with a brilliant blue, transitioning to a striking red on its breast, and finishing with a vibrant green on its back. The female, although less flamboyant, exhibits a lovely combination of green and yellow. The contrasting hues and intricate patterns of the Painted Bunting make it a true gem of the avian world, captivating the hearts of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.


California is home to a diverse range of red birds, including the Western Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher, and the California Condor. With its unique and varied habitats, California offers birdwatchers many opportunities to observe these striking birds in the wild.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the most common red birds in California?

Some of the most common red birds in California include the Western Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher, and the House Finch.

Where can I go to see red birds in California?

You can go to various locations such as the Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate Park, or the Point Reyes National Seashore to see red birds in California.

What is the best time of year to see red birds in California?

The best time of year to see red birds in California is typically in the spring and summer months when birds are breeding and nesting.

Are there any endangered red birds in California?

Yes, the California Condor is an endangered red bird species that can be found in California.

What should I bring when birdwatching in California?

When birdwatching in California, you should bring binoculars, a field guide, and comfortable clothing, and footwear for hiking and outdoor activities.

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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