Birds at the San Francisco Botanical Garden

White Crowned Sparrow

Working at the garden was such a treat for me. I love immersing myself in nature and exploring everything the garden has to offer. As a young child we always had birds as pets. I learned so much just by observing their personalities and grew to love all bird life.
The garden is home to many a bird species. We have red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, blue herons, white egrets, stellar jays, scrub jays, hummingbirds, white crowned sparrows, quail and so much more. A day does not go by that I don't see at least four to five different bird species.
I've learned to recognize many just by hearing their unique songs. My favorite little bird is the white crowned sparrow. which is pictured above. They are native to North America and make their nests in shrubs and grasses. They mainly eat seeds and plants but also dine on insects. They are anywhere from 6 to eight inches long and can stay awake for two weeks while migrating.
They would greet me each morning, flocks of them foraging the great meadow and areas around the garden. They are small but very alert. In the evening they blanket the grassy meadows and sing as if they were a chorus.
Stellar Jay
I was walking around in the exhibition garden one day taking photos of fuchsia. I happened to turn around and found perched in a tree, three stellar jays about four feet away from me. I was stunned and pleasantly surprised. Though they are native to Western North America they are not commonly seen in the garden. It was a cold, overcast and dark day so the photo that I took resembles a Winter scene even though this photo was taken in Spring.
Though their diet consists of mainly plants and seeds they do also eat small rodents. Seeds, nuts and fruits are the mainstay for stellar jays..

Red Tailed Hawk

It was February 8, 2012 and I was celebrating my birthday with a friend by getting to the garden early that morning and spending most of the day there. 
As we walked in that morning we saw a gentleman who was motioning for us to come over to him. I found that strange at the time but since there were two of us there I decided to take him up on his offer and was so glad I did. Located near the main gate at the library courtyard is a very small water fall in which the waters spills over a rock formation. On top of that rock, was a red tailed hawk, bathing. Now red tail hawks normally perch in tall trees and are regularly seen in the Redwood Grove at the garden. So, this was a truly rare sight to see. By that time there were a few of us who were watching the hawk and taking photos. None of us got too close so as not to scare him. He became very animated and flapping his wings and without any provocation took off in flight with a wingspan that seemed to go on forever. We all stood there in awe. That was a truly special birthday gift.
There is now a red tailed hawk family living in the garden. I was walking to our North Gate early one morning when I spotted the baby hawk on the grassy meadow. Within seconds, one of it's parents swooped down and flew the baby away. I took that as a sign of protection.
These hawks have a very melodious sound to their call which is very descriptive. They normally nest in tall trees and even if I cannot immediately see them, I know they are around by their call.
Red tailed hawks typically find squirrels, rodents and gophers as their prey so they always have a feast at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.
Seeing these hawks at the garden is a real treat and is very common.

Blue Heron

I was walking to my post at the North Gate across street from the Japanese Tea Garden. We were coming upon the waterfowl pond where a plethora of wild fowl bird life live. What struck me was there were at least half a dozen people facing the pond where the turtles normally sunbathe, taking photos. As we got close, to my amazement was a a blue heron, pictured above, foraging for food in the pond. He was tall, sleek and elegant as he deliberately yet with class and finesse hunted the waters. Above is a photo I caught of him catching a crawdad.
This particular heron and his family can be spotted all over the garden at least three times a week. He frequents the wildfowl pond and the dwarf conifer pond in our Temperate Asia garden. He can also be spotted on our great meadow and the meadow near the pond.
Surprisingly you can get up close and personal with these elegant birds. There have been times I've been only a foot or so away snapping photos of him. He's become the blue diva of the gardens.

Female Lesser Goldfinch

Being the shutterbug that I am, I am always looking and listening for birds. A regular visitor to the San Francisco Botanical Garden who is a bird photographer gave me a few tips regarding catching birds with your camera. He told me "be patient and wait." So, I took his advice. I went to the Chilean garden which is a haven for bird watching. I heard a songbird, turned and saw some branches moving. I slowly inched toward the branches to see a female lesser goldfinch searching the flowers for food. I stood there, waited patiently and began snapping photos. I was so excited to snap this goldfinch because this beautiful little warbler never stopped moving.
I was also able to use my zoom lens for a macro effect. This is a rare bird that I do not see very often so it was a real treat to capture her and bring her to you.

Scrub Jay

These beautiful blue colored birds are all over the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. No matter which area of the garden you are visiting, whether it be the Temperate Asia garden, The California Native garden etc... you will see one of these beauties.
They also are native to Western North American and are known as the urban birds. They can also be found at your backyard feeder. They feed on fruits and vegetables and also insects and small frogs. They typically live about 10 years.
I found this little guy foraging for food near the great meadow by the Garden of Fragrance. I stood there quite a while taking photos. He was so engrossed in finding food, he did not even notice me.


Getting photos of hummingbirds is like trying to get a still shot of a race car at the Indy 500. I happened to be walking in the plant arbor at the garden when I noticed this hummingbird on a flowered plant that was on display. My heart raced as I got my camera ready for the shot. It is not the greatest photo ever taken but it was my one and only shot of a hummingbird, sans the wings which here flapping so quickly that they did not even make an appearance on the photo. Nonetheless, hummingbirds occupy the garden all year round and especially during the Spring.

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mick said…
A great series of photos - beautiful birds to find in the garden!
Karen said…
What a great series!
eileeninmd said…
A wonderful collection of birds. The hawk is awesome and I like the cute Lesser Goldfinch and the hummer. Have a happy day!
Gary Phillips said…
Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
Melanie said…
All of the pictures are lovely, but I enjoyed the Stellar Jay the most. Have never seen one as they do not live here. It is lovely though!
rainfield61 said…
They are gorgeous.
Noel Morata said…
great captures, I love that arboretum, but never notice the birds until now!
beautiful st of shots from the gsrden
Jean Knill said…
What a wonderful miscellany of bird pics and stories, Jo. I'm r ather late with my visit but just had to leave a thank you.

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