Birds of the Lake Tahoe Basin

There are many bird species in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The following are a few of the ones often seen by visitors.


Western Tanager

Tanager perched in a tree.The male Western Tanager is one of the most colorful birds in the Lake Tahoe Basin. His red head, bright yellow body with black on the back, wings, and tail, makes him a very eye-catching bird.





Dark-Eyed Junco

Color photo of a Dark-eyed Junco sitting on a tree branch.One of the four forms of Dark-Eyed Junco, the Oregon Junco is one of the most abundant and easily recognized birds in the Sierra forest. These small birds have solid black heads and white stripes on either side of their tails and are often seen eating seeds on the forest floor.




Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Yellow headed black birdThis bird is often found in cattail and tule marshes. No other Lake Tahoe Basin bird has such a distinctive yellow head and black body. It is generally spotted in the Pope Marsh area during early spring.






Mallard duck sitting afloatThis type of duck is considered a "puddle duck" because it typically prefers shallow water such as creeks, ponds, and marshes. The male Mallard is easy to spot because of his glossy green head and narrow white collar. Usually you can see the ducks flying south in formation for the winter.





Canada Goose

Canadian Goose enjoying the waterThis is the most common goose in North America. It has a black head and neck with a distinctive white "chinstrap" stretching from ear to ear. Elevated nesting platforms installed in the Pope Marsh area in 1976 have greatly improved nesting success. These long-necked, noisy birds are very abundant during the summer and are readily viewed by visitors.





Mountain Chickadee

Color photo of a Dark-eyed Junco sitting on a tree branch. The most common bird in the Tahoe Basin is the Mountain Chickadee. These small plump birds have a black cap, black bib under their chin and a white line over each eye. Chickadees are very acrobatic, swinging from the tips and undersides of branches as they hunt for insects and seeds. They have a very distinctive three note whistle.




Steller's Jay

Stellar's JayAlmost anyone who spends time in the forest will meet the noisy Steller's Jay. This pigeon-sized bird with deep blue wings, tail, and breast, is hard to miss. Often this jay becomes quite bold, sometimes stealing bread crusts from tables where people are picnicking.





Bald Eagle

The American Bald EagleThis eagle can occasionally be seen during the winter months at Lake Tahoe. The majestic adult Bald Eagle, with a wing span reaching seven feet, can easily be identified because of its white head and tail. Often mistaken for an eagle, the Osprey is a summer resident of the Basin. It is sometimes referred to as a Fish Hawk because it feeds only on fish.





Golden Eagle

Flying golden eagle Adults are brown with tawny on the back of the head and neck; tail faintly banded. Juveniles have white patches at base of primaries, white tail with a distinct dark terminal band. It takes four years to acquire adult plumage. The golden eagle is a solitary bird, which can be found in remote areas. They do not congregate in large numbers during the winter. Being a great hunter, the golden eagle seldom eats carrion. Its hunting territory extends up to 162 square miles (260 square km). Photo Credit: Juan Lacruz.





Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker set to begin its peckingHairy Woodpeckers are usually found in mature mixed woods around campgrounds and picnic areas. This robin-sized bird can be recognized by the vertical white stripe on its black back, and its long bill. Like most woodpeckers, the Hairy Woodpecker feeds on tree boring insects, berries, acorns and sap. These woodpeckers are very often confused with Downy Woodpeckers which have the same markings but are smaller in size and have a shorter bill.





California Gull

A California Seagull at the beachThe California Gull, often spotted at Lake Tahoe beaches, is the same gull seen on Pacific Ocean beaches and is commonly referred to as a seagull. Typical of most gulls, the California Gull is a true scavenger, feeding on garbage, insects, plant material and fish. Another gull is the Ring-billed Gull which has a black stripe around its bill. Although not as common as the California Gull, it too is often seen at Tahoe beaches.





American Robin

Color photo of an American Robin standing in a green grassy area.The Robin is a summer visitor in the Lake Tahoe Basin, appearing soon after the snow melts. Its brick-red breast, yellow bill and gray back makes identification easy. It is a very common bird, frequently observed hopping across lawns or small openings in the forest searching for worms and insects.





Red-Tailed Hawk

Color photo of a Red-tailed Hawk in full flightA large heavy set hawk with broad wings, the adult Red-Tailed Hawk is dark brown above and light below with a reddish tail. These hawks habitually soar in wide circles and can easily be seen on clear days, seemingly to enjoy the view, when actually they are hunting for rats, mice, rabbits, or an occasional small reptile.



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