Over 200 species of birds use the diverse habitats found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These habitats range from gently-sloping foothill grasslands, to conifer forests, and windswept alpine tundra and peaks. While some bird species live in the parks year-round, others only use the parks for breeding or as a stopover during migration. In recognition of our bird diversity and critical habitats for breeding, stopover, and wintering, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are designated as Globally Important Bird Areas.
Bird enthusiasts visiting the parks will see different bird behaviors depending on the time of year and habitat. During the winter, the foothills provide opportunities to see California quail rustling under shrubs or perching on rocks; flocks of band-tailed pigeons searching for an evening roost; or acorn woodpeckers calling to one another among the oaks. During spring and fall, large numbers of birds can be seen and heard as they seek food to fuel their long migratory journeys. In spring, look for flocks of warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and tanagers; their brightly-colored feathers and distinctive songs help them establish nesting territories. In the summer, birds are active and easy to spot throughout the parks . It's a great time to hike to high-elevation areas to watch Clark's nutcrackers harvest seeds from pine cones.
Future bird watching opportunities will likely change as our climate changes. Current research indicates a shift in timing of nesting of over 200 species of birds in California's Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada. Different species are nesting from 5 to 12 days earlier than typical, likely to avoid warming spring temperatures that can kill young nesting birds. Some bird species, such as the Clark's nutcracker and the California spotted owl , could be affected as climate changes their habitats. In these parks, hot drought and white pine blister rust could impact nutcrackers by reducing their habitat. California spotted owl habitat could be affected by a combination of of hot drought, tree mortality, and wildfire. Other predicted climate impacts are changes in bird communities, with some species being lost in the parks due to changing climate and other new species arriving. Ecological systems are complex and it is difficult to anticipate how the interactions of changing climate and other factors may interact to change bird communities now and into the future. Yet, park managers continue to learn about possible changes and take management actions to improve the resilience and adaptation of our plant and animal communities.
Visit the photo gallery below to enjoy some examples of the wide diversity of birds in these parks.