A Brief History of Audubon in California

Audubon California was established in 1996 as a field program of the National Audubon Society, overseeing the organization’s properties and leading conservation efforts. But our work in California goes back to the earliest days of the national organization, even before its formal founding. Audubon’s legacy of conservation and activism in the Golden State establishes it as a force for conservation along the Pacific Flyway. Audubon California has a network of 49 local chapters throughout the State of California where Audubon members and their families can enjoy and protect local birds and nature.

Global warming is a serious threat to California birds. A seven-year study from the National Audubon Society released in September 2014 finds that global warming threatens the survival of 170 California species in the coming decades. This includes iconic California birds such as the Brown Pelican, Allen’s Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Magpie, and many others. These are birds that all of us know well from our backyards and from our own experiences in California’s beautiful outdoors.

Audubon analyzed more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count to understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Of 588 bird species examined in the study, 314 species are considered at-risk. Hundreds of species not previously considered at risk will be challenged to survive in a climate-changed future. Understanding those links then allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.

Audubon California is addressing this challenge by protecting the habitats that we know birds will need now and into the future, and doing what we can to lessen the severity of global warming. We’ll do this work with a variety of partners on the ground and in the halls of the State Capitol and Washington, D.C.

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This is a list of currently listed birds by California Department of Fish and Game 

DFG California Fully Protected Birds

American peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus anatum

Brown pelican (=California brown pelican) Pelecanus occidentalis (=P. o. occidentalis)

California black rail Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus

California clapper rail Rallus longirostris obsoletus

California condor Gymnogyps califonianus

California least tem Sterna albifrons browni (=Sterna antillarum browni)

Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Greater sandhill crane Grus candadensis tabida

Light-footed clapper rail Rallus longirostris levipes

Southern bald eagle (=bald eagle) Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus (=Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Trumpeter swan Cygnus buccinator

White-tailed kite Elanus leucurus

Yuma clapper rail Rallus longirostris yumanensis

DFG Special Status birds

Yellow-breasted chat

Here are key Audubon California Watch list birds:

CALIFORNIA CONDOR   (Gymnogyps californianus)

Reduced to just 22 birds in 1988, this raptor is slowly recovering, thanks to captive breeding and the release of individuals in California and Arizona.  There are now 302 individuals, including 79 free-flying birds in California. Lead bullets are a critical threat to long-term survival, as fragments poison wild condors that scavenge the remains of hunters’ kills.

TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD   (Agelaius tricolor) tri-colored blackbirdA highly social species, this bird is found in freshwater wetlands in the Pacific states, mainly California. With loss of wetland habitat, this species increasingly relies on agricultural fields for nesting, leaving chicks vulnerable to the harvest of hay and other crops. Audubon California is working with farmers to maintain agricultural nesting habitat long enough each season to allow the blackbirds to successfully raise their young – potentially spelling the difference between survival and extinction for this highly specialized bird.

ASHY STORM-PETREL   (Oceanodroma homochroa) Breeding populations are restricted to islands off the west coast of North America.  Non-native nest predators and increased gull populations threaten breeding birds, and ocean pollution and overfishing threaten feeding birds.  Audubon California is working to establish Marine Important Bird Areas and other programs to save this and many other marine bird species in need of protection.

SNOWY PLOVER   (Charadrius alexandrinus) The population that lives along the Pacific shoreline is federally threatened.  Development along beaches, increased beach recreation, disturbance by pets, and increased predation require constant vigilance.  Audubon California is supporting chapters in organizing beach surveys to monitor population trends and educating the public to enjoy the beach in plover-friendly ways.

LONG-BILLED CURLEW   (Numenius americanus) The largest shorebird in North America, the curlew winters in the agricultural valleys of California.  Estimates of how many curlews are left range from 20,000 to 160,000.  Better estimates of how many curlews remain are needed with better understanding about what agricultural types and practices curlews depend.  Audubon California and partners conducted a statewide survey of curlews and more than 28,000 birds were counted.

CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER   (Polioptila californica) This species’ limited range, extending north from Mexico’s Baja California to coastal southern California, and its specific habitat requirements, make it vulnerable and a high conservation priority. Burgeoning human populations have fragmented and destroyed suitable habitat for this species in southern California so that it was Federally listed as a threatened species in 1993.

CLAPPER RAIL   (Rallus longirostris) This wide-ranging species has become increasingly rare as the coastal wetlands that it depends upon are developed. Three endangered subspecies, California, Yuma, and Light-footed Clapper Rail, occur in California. Audubon chapters are engaged in the protection of marshlands and coastal habitats throughout California.

MOUNTAIN PLOVER   (Charadrius montanus) One of North America’s endemic grassland birds.  Once plentiful on the short grass prairies of western North America, this species has declined by about 50% since 1966.  These declines are due to alteration of prairie habitat on the breeding grounds. Mountain Plovers winter in California and depend on agricultural fields and practices.

MARBLED MURRELET   (Polioptila californica) Nesting high up in the old-growth conifers of the Pacific coast, these enigmatic seabirds were one of the last North American birds to have their nests discovered.  Marbled Murrelets usually nest within 30 miles of the ocean and forage at sea within three miles of the coastline. These birds face a powerful triumvirate of threats–logging, gill-net mortality, and oil spills–and have experienced dramatic population declines in recent years.

LEAST TERN   (Polioptila californica) The western population of this species was down to 600 pairs in 1972.  Through concerted effort, it has rebounded to 4,500 pairs in southern California and the Bay Area.  Least Terns are endangered because the beaches needed for nesting are in high demand for human recreation and residential development.

Audubon WatchList 2007

Family Groups

Swans, Geese, Ducks Crane Gallinaceous Birds Plovers Loons, Grebes Snipe, Sandpipers, Phalaropes, allies Albatrosses Gulls, Terns, Skimmers Shearwaters, Fulmars, Petrels Auks, Murres, Puffins, Guillemots Storm-Petrels Pigeons, Doves Boobies, Gannets Parrots Cormorants Cuckoos Frigatebirds Owls, Nightjars Herons, Bitterns, Egrets Swifts, Hummingbirds, Trogon Condor Woodpeckers Hawks, Kites, Osprey, Eagles Songbirds Coots, Rails

Swans, Geese, Ducks

Emperor Goose Trumpeter Swan Mottled Duck Steller’s Eider Spectacled Eider Hawaiian Duck Hawaiian Goose Laysan Duck

Gallinaceous Birds

Greater Sage-Grouse Gunnison Sage-Grouse Sooty Grouse Greater Prairie-Chicken Lesser Prairie-Chicken Mountain Quail Scaled Quail Montezuma Quail

Loons, Grebes

Yellow-billed Loon Clark’s Grebe


Laysan Albatross Black-footed Albatross Short-tailed Albatross

Shearwaters, Fulmars, Petrels

Bermuda Petrel Black-capped Petrel Hawaiian Petrel Cory’s Shearwater Pink-footed Shearwater Greater Shearwater Buller’s Shearwater Sooty Shearwater Manx Shearwater Newell’s Shearwater Black-vented Shearwater Audubon’s Shearwater


Ashy Storm-Petrel Band-rumped Storm-Petrel Black Storm-Petrel Tristram’s Storm-Petrel Least Storm-Petrel

Boobies, Gannets

Masked Booby


Red-faced Cormorant


Magnificent Frigatebird

Herons, Bitterns, Egrets

Reddish Egret


California Condor


Hawks, Kites, Osprey, Eagles

Swallow-tailed Kite Swainson’s Hawk Hawaiian Hawk

Coots, Rails

Yellow Rail Black Rail Clapper Rail King Rail Hawaiian Coot


Whooping Crane


American Golden-Plover Snowy Plover Wilson’s Plover Piping Plover Mountain Plover

Snipe, Sandpipers, Phalaropes, allies

Wandering Tattler Eskimo Curlew Bristle-thighed Curlew Long-billed Curlew Hudsonian Godwit Bar-tailed Godwit Marbled Godwit Black Turnstone Surfbird Red Knot Sanderling Semipalmated Sandpiper Western Sandpiper White-rumped Sandpiper Rock Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers

Heermann’s Gull Thayer’s Gull Iceland Gull Yellow-footed Gull Red-legged Kittiwake Ross’s Gull Ivory Gull Gull-billed Tern Elegant Tern Roseate Tern Least Tern Aleutian Tern Bridled Tern Black Skimmer

Auks, Murres, Puffins, Guillemots

Razorbill Marbled Murrelet Kittlitz’s Murrelet Xantus’s Murrelet Craveri’s Murrelet Ancient Murrelet Whiskered Auklet

Pigeons, Doves

White-crowned Pigeon


Green Parakeet Thick-billed Parrot Red-crowned Parrot


Anis Mangrove Cuckoo

Owls, Nightjars

Flammulated Owl Elf Owl Spotted Owl Short-eared Owl Antillean Nighthawk

Swifts, Hummingbirds, Trogon

Black Swift Blue-throated Hummingbird Costa’s Hummingbird Calliope Hummingbird Allen’s Hummingbird Elegant Trogon


Lewis’s Woodpecker Red-headed Woodpecker Williamson’s Sapsucker Nuttall’s Woodpecker Arizona Woodpecker Red-cockaded Woodpecker White-headed Woodpecker Gilded Flicker Ivory-billed Woodpecker


Olive-sided Flycatcher Willow Flycatcher Thick-billed Kingbird Bell’s Vireo Gray Vireo Black-capped Vireo Florida Scrub-Jay Island Scrub-Jay Pinyon Jay Yellow-billed Magpie Hawaiian Crow Elepaio Mexican Chickadee Oak Titmouse Millerbird California Gnatcatcher Kamao Olomao Omao Puaiohi Bicknell’s Thrush Wood Thrush Varied Thrush Wrentit Bendire’s Thrasher California Thrasher Le Conte’s Thrasher Sprague’s Pipit Bachman’s Warbler Blue-winged Warbler Golden-winged Warbler Virginia’s Warbler Colima Warbler Lucy’s Warbler Bay-breasted Warbler Golden-cheeked Warbler Hermit Warbler Grace’s Warbler Kirtland’s Warbler Prairie Warbler Cerulean Warbler Prothonotary Warbler Swainson’s Warbler Kentucky Warbler Canada Warbler Red-faced  Warbler Abert’s Towhee Rufous-winged Sparrow Bachman’s Sparrow Five-striped Sparrow Brewer’s Sparrow Black-chinned Sparrow Sage Sparrow Lark Bunting Baird’s Sparrow Henslow’s Sparrow Le Conte’s Sparrow Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow Seaside Sparrow Smith’s Longspur Chestnut-collared Longspur McKay’s Bunting Varied Bunting Painted Bunting Tricolored Blackbird Rusty Blackbird Audubon’s Oriole Black Rosy-Finch Brown-capped Rosy-Finch Lawrence’s Goldfinch Laysan Finch Nihoa Finch Ou Palila Maui Parrotbill Oahu Amakihi Kauai Amakihi Anianiau Nukupuu Akiapolaau Akikiki Hawaii Creeper Oahu Alauahio Maui Alauahio Akekee Akepa Iiwi Akohekohe Poo-uli