9 Beautiful Birds of Lake Tahoe

By Shanie Matthews | Wednesday, May 15, 2019

One of the greatest aspects to the melting of snow and the coming of spring is the multitude of songbirds that frolic back to the area. From golden eagles to little chickadees, come spring our forests our full of the sweet sounds of birds.

To help you take full advantage of the birding opportunities around Lake Tahoe, I have put together a little guide of nine birds to keep an eye out for. Their presence is sure to bring a smile to your face.

Dark-Eyed Junco: The Dark-Eyed Junco is a tiny little bird with a solid black head and white stripes on the outsides of their tail. They can often be found foraging for little seeds in wooded areas.

Townsend Solitaire: A tiny, elegant bird, the Townsend Solitaire is songbird that enjoys the forest habitat. With deep gray plumage, its robust, round body and semi-long tail are large in comparison to its head. Despite being of the thrush family, they love to sit on the tip-top of trees letting their presence be known. In summer, insects are their favored meal and in winter the fruit from juniper trees becomes the food of choice.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird: A stunning bird often found in marshes filled with cattails and tule, this little guy is a real head-turner. With a shocking yellow head and upper breast with a black body, the Yellow-Headed Blackbird is often found in Pope Marsh in spring.

Red Crossbill: A neat bird with a crisscrossed beak, the Red Crossbill is fun to watch as the males and females are different in color. The males come in a beautiful red with darker brown-red wings. The females, on the other hand, are yellow in color and are highlighted with dark, unmarked wings. They enjoy scurrying about in mature, coniferous forests.

Mallard: If you want to get a bit ducky, the mallard duck is happy to oblige. Often seen in shallow waterways including creeks, ponds, marshes and the shallow beaches of Lake Tahoe, the Mallard is a showstopper with his beautiful glossy green head and priest-like white collar. The best time of year to see a mallard is in the winter when they are flying south for the season.

Mountain Chickadee: A definite favorite for locals as it’s famous call (that sounds as if they are saying “cheeseburger”) is the true trumpet call for spring. Also the most common bird in the Tahoe area, these little guys are dressed with a black head and chest area under the beak with an adorable white line over each eye. Known for their acrobatic grace, they are often seen swinging from the undersides of branches. The love to eat insects and seeds.

Western Bluebird: Maybe the cutest out of the lot, the Western Bluebird is a lovely bird to watch. Small in size, it grows to about 15 to 18 cm in size. They have a brilliant blue coloring that is highlighted with rust coloring on the breast. The males are much more colorful than females. Favoring holes in trees and nest boxes, Western Bluebirds often gather in flocks when not in breeding season to feed together. They are known to live on the edge of wooded areas.

Steller’s Jay: Where the Chickadee may be a favorite, the Steller’s Jay is considered to be a bit more of an annoyance with its shrill, loud call and cheeky behavior of coming right up and stealing food from your hand. They are about the size of a small pigeon and are deep blue in color.

American Robin: A migratory songbird that loves wooded areas, the American Robin has a lovely reddish-orange breast. Commonly seen, the American Robin has a round body, somewhat long legs for its size and a fairly long tail. Their call can often sound like a person chuckling.

Photos courtesy of Tahoe Institute of Natural Science

About the Author Shanie Matthews
A longtime Lake Tahoe local, Shanie is a freelance writer, Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and positivity warrior. A true lover of the the gorgeous Tahoe region, she connects with the serenity of the mountains via skiing, biking and backpacking. She also believes in the gift of yoga and its way of allowing one to become his or her true best self, a passion she shares with the world with her online yoga studio.