Short Trips for Target Birds Series

CALIFORNIA: Condor, Island Scrub-Jay, & LA Exotics

CaliforniaCondor-juvenile

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2022 :: January 15 - January 18
2023 :: January 14 - January 17

TRIP LEADERS

TOUR COST

From: $1,250 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Los Angeles, California (LAX)

GROUP SIZE

3 - 7 Participants

AVAILABILITY

2022: 2 spaces available
2023: 7 spaces available

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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Highlights of CALIFORNIA: Condor, Island Scrub-Jay, & LA Exotics

  • Shorter, target trip for California Condor and Island Scrub-Jay
  • 30+ exotic birds, including 12 ABA countable species!
  • Let us do the city driving!
  • Sunny southern California!
  • Boat trip to Santa Cruz Island for endemic scrub-jay!

Description of CALIFORNIA: Condor, Island Scrub-Jay, & LA Exotics

This shorter, 5-day tour focuses on the endangered California Condor, endemic Island Scrub-Jay, and countable exotic birds found around Los Angeles, California. LA is a sprawling metropolis along the southern California coast, and the second largest city in the United States. Urban environments blend into rolling hills, oak-grasslands, and steep coastal cliff-sides. The Mediterranean climate is home to 4 million people, but also contains an incredible concentration of native plant and animal species. Among this natural diversity of wildlife, two bird species stand out in particular – the endangered California Condor and the insular-endemic Island Scrub-Jay. Only 188 condors are free-flying in California, and the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge provides one of their largest reserves – we will spend a day exploring the area for condors. Island Scrub-Jay are only found on the 96 square-mile Santa Cruz Island, where about 2000 jays persist, and we will take a boat trip out there for the day!

In stark contrast to these iconic, native birds set against beautiful, scenic habitats is a huge list of exotic bird species that have been introduced and are now naturalized within Los Angeles city limits. Over 30 exotic bird species that have been commonly imported as pets are now wild residents in southern California. Many of these introduced birds originate from Africa, southeast Asia, India, and South America where subtropical climates made them easily adaptable to LA’s urban jungle. Of the 30+ introduced bird species in the region, there are 11 currently recognized as ‘countable’ by the American Birding Association. Many other species are not yet officially countable by the ABA, but their populations are stable and growing. See countable versus non-countable species lists below. This target tour will focus on the 11 countable species, but many other exotics will be searched for as well. In addition to these exotic birds, other (native) southern California specialties will be encountered during the course of this tour, including Nuttall’s Woodpecker and California Scrub-Jay.

Have you always wanted to visit Los Angeles, see magnificent condors soaring over the California highlands, and wanted to boost your life list searching for urban exotics? Let us do the planning (and the city driving) and lead you on this fast-paced birding adventure to sunny southern California!

From birding hotspots in downtown LA, to a channel island, this is a whirlwind tour of the region focused on some tough-to-get target birds. This tour has one scheduled departure each January following our CALIFORNIA: South Coast, Deserts, & Mountains tour, but is also available for private dates at your convenience!

ABA Countable Exotics found in California:

  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Spotted Dove
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
  • Chukar
  • Indian Peafowl
  • Red-whiskered Bulbul
  • European Starling
  • House Sparrow
  • Monk Parakeet*
  • Mitred Parakeet*
  • White-winged Parakeet*
  • Red-crowned Parrot

*- denotes species that are ABA countable, but not currently accepted on the CA state list.

Additional Established Exotics found in California:

  • Egyptian Goose
  • Mandarin Duck
  • Orange-cheeked Waxbill
  • Bronze Mannikin
  • Scaly-breasted Munia
  • Pin-tailed Whydah
  • Northern Red Bishop
  • Swinhoe’s White-eye
  • European Goldfinch
  • Orange Weaver
  • Rose-ringed Parakeet
  • Nanday Parakeet
  • Yellow-chevroned Parakeet
  • Red-masked Parakeet
  • Blue-crowned Parakeet
  • Yellow-crowned Parrot
  • Lilac-crowned Parrot
  • Red-lored Parrot
  • Yellow-headed Parrot
  • White-fronted Parrot
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Length of Tour

5-Days/4-Nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrivals at Los Angeles Int. Airport (LAX) and Compton exotics. Night in Pasadena.

Day 2 – Bitter Creek California Condors. Night in Ventura Harbor.

Day 3 – Boat trip to Santa Cruz Island for Island Scrub-Jay! Night in Ventura Harbor.

Day 4 – LA and Huntingdon Beach exotics and regional specialties. Night in Los Alamitos.

Day 5 – LA exotics and remaining targets. Afternoon departures from Los Angeles Int. Airport (LAX).

Detailed Itinerary

*Exact birding itinerary subject to change depending on current conditions

Day 1 – Arrivals at Los Angeles Int. Airport (LAX) and Compton exotics. Night in Pasadena.

After gathering everyone from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), we will spend the afternoon in Pasadena looking for the odd and introduced Red-whiskered Bulbul. These striking songbirds can be found singing their mockingbird-like songs from the urban landscaping. Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Scaly-breasted Munia, Pin-tailed Whydah, and various parrots occur in the small parks and neighborhoods. We will end the day at a massive, incredible roost of Amazona parrots in Pasadena. On some nights there can be as many as 200 Red-crowned Parrots and 25 Lilac-crowned Parrots. Yellow-headed Parrots and Red-lored Parrots sometimes join in too! We have also found weird hybrid parrots before! Sometimes flocks of Band-tailed Pigeons also join this roost! It’s truly an incredible sight, regardless of whether these exotic parrots should be here or not! Night in Pasadena.

Day 2 – Bitter Creek California Condors. Night in Ventura Harbor.

We will be up early and head into the highlands for the day. Our goal is to explore the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge and search for the massive, iconic California Condors! This vast refuge protects over 23,000 acres of pristine condor habitat . Two mountain ranges merge together here. We will travel through pine forests and climb up in elevation. Steller’s Jay and Mountain Chickadee are common. Up in the higher areas, the landscape is covered in picturesque oak-grasslands that provide foraging and nesting habitat for the region’s 188 wild, free-flying condors. We will stake out the condors from various mountain overlooks, and try to move closer depending on where they are hanging out that day. Other raptors are common in the refuge, and we often spot Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawk, and Prairie Falcon among the more common Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels. Other birds we are likely to see include Mountain Bluebird, Phainopepla, Oak Titmouse, Wrentit, California Towhee, and Rock Wren. If we are successful in finding a condor earlier in the day, they we will set off towards the coast and bird through the pine forests for Townsend’s Solitaire and “California” Red-shouldered Hawk. Some years there is an over-wintering Tufted Duck near Santa Barbara that we can try for if time allows. Night in Ventura Harbor.

Day 3 – Boat trip to Santa Cruz Island for Island Scrub-Jay! Night in Ventura Harbor.

On day 3 we venture out to Santa Cruz Island. Black Oystercatcher, Snowy Egret, California Sea Lions, and various western gulls should be lurking around the Ventura Harbor in the morning. At 9:00am we will board a large, foil-assisted catamaran for a cruise out to Santa Cruz Island. Prepare for colder temps and potentially rough seas. During the hour-long commute to the island, we will scan the sea for Clark’s and Horned Grebes, Surf Scoters, Black-vented Shearwaters, Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorants, and various alcids including Common Murre, Cassin’s Auklet, and Rhinocerous Auklet. Sometimes Northern Fulmar and jaegers can be seen. Common Dolphins and Gray Whale are sometimes spotted. Soon we will reach Santa Cruz Island; the largest island off California’s coast at 96 square miles with 77 miles of coastline. An incredible 600 species of plants cover this remote, scenic island. This is the only place on Earth to see the Island Scrub-Jay, and Prisoner’s Harbor along the north coastline is where we will dedicate our time searching for them. Other species we might find include unique, insular subspecies of Allen’s Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Hutton’s Vireo, and Song Sparrow. After some thorough birding and a picnic lunch, we will head back to Ventura Harbor and search for more seabirds on the way! We should return to the harbor by 5pm. Night in Ventura Harbor.

Day 4 – LA and Huntingdon Beach exotics and regional specialties. Night in Los Alamitos.

After a quick check around Ventura Harbor, we will drive south toward Los Angeles to get back into the traffic and hunt down more exotics. Targets of the day include Swinhoe’s White-eye, Scaly-breasted Munia, Pin-tailed Whydah, and Northern Red Bishop. Visits to Mile Square Regional Park, Huntingdon Central Park, and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve will rack up a huge number of species for the day. From exotic songbirds to wintering warblers to massive numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl, we should pack in some really great urban birding today! “Black” Brant, Royal Tern, Allen’s Hummingbird, and Reddish Egret may be seen. Two unique subspecies of Savannah Sparrow may be encountered – “Belding’s” and “Large-billed”. Night in Los Alamitos.

Day 5 – LA exotics and remaining targets. Afternoon departures from Los Angeles Int. Airport (LAX).

Our final morning will be spent in the Long Beach area searching for a few remaining exotic birds. Primary targets include Northern Red Bishop and European Goldfinch plus any remaining regional specialties that we haven’t seen yet. Please plan to depart from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the afternoon.

Cost

Cost is $1,250 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Los Angeles, California (Airport code LAX).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code LAX).

Cost Includes

Cost includes all ground transportation, accommodations, entrance fees and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $150 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

Three nights accommodations in a standard motel, ensuite and comfortable. Wherever possible, we support local establishments that implement eco-friendly practices.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

You can mostly prepare for short walks on flat terrain, but our day on Santa Cruz Island involves some lengthy walking over hilly terrain. This tour includes a hour-long boat ride to and from Santa Cruz Island, and under certain weather conditions it can be quite rough sees. Please prepare with seasickness medication, and ask us for tips and tricks! Due to the nature of finding exotic birds in the vast Los Angeles landscape, much of this trip will involve car-birding and occasionally sitting in city traffic.

Recommended Field Guides & Apps

Recommended Field Guide

Sibley Birds West (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds is also available as an App

Non-smoking Tour

This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

Transportation

We will using a 12 or 15-passenger van, driven by the leader (s). If the group size is smaller, a mini-van or SUV may be used.

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Trip Reports/Species Lists:

 

Additonal content: 

US endemics in the Lower 48

California Condors returning to northern CA!

Location Map