Birds to watch at your village park

by Jenny Rigby

Jenny Rigby, Director of Acorn Group

Here’s something fun to do with your family this weekend: Take this guide to a park and see how many birds you can spot.

Watching birds is gratifying at so many levels. You don’t have to travel far. You can enjoy it at any pace, from recreation to scientific pursuit. You can include family and friends.

Fall is a perfect time to explore Irvine’s open space preserves and parks. Wildlife is taking advantage of autumn fruits and seeds. Plants are responding to shorter daylight hours. Their green chlorophyll is breaking down, and their colors are shifting to yellow, dark red and brown. Some birds are arriving, resting here before continuing to migrate south. You’ll find them in the preserves, as well as parks and backyards.

Bird-watching comes with benefits. It encourages patience and mindfulness. It builds our sense of community. And getting outdoors improves our health.

Jenny Rigby, director of Acorn Group, is an award-winning environmental planner, teacher and writer.


White-crowned sparrow - Fall marks the arrival of these birds, crowned with striking black and white markings. You’ll find them near to the ground in gardens, parks and edges of marshy areas.
Yellow-rumped warbler - Nicknamed “butter butt,” this migratory warbler starts arriving in September. Listen for its sharp chirps and watch for flocks in trees, especially near water.
Western bluebird- Watch for a flash of blue and chestnut among males. Bluebirds prefer meadows and open ground with high perches, where they can watch for insects.
Red-tailed hawk - During fall, winter migrants from the North join local year-round residents, where prey is more plentiful. Look for a dark band extending from the neck to halfway across the edge of each wing.
Cedar waxwing - Fall berries of mistletoe, toyon, and other plants supply cedar waxwings with their favorite food. Watch for flocks in the trees, each bird sporting a black eye mask.
Killdeer - Marked with two chest bands, this shorebird feeds and nests on open ground, including lawns and athletic fields. It often calls out in the evening, belting its kill-deee cry.

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