From hummingbirds to eagles, studying the diversity of birds on campus can be endlessly rewarding, and requires no more effort than stepping outside and standing still. When you are in a hurry, you may barely notice the brown flashes darting away from you, but stop and wait and soon the ubiquitous juncos, sparrows, towhees, or chickadees will return to their peaceful foraging. On a spring dawn the birdsongs can be breathtaking. Listen at any time of year and you may hear outbreaks of worried scolding - then you get to puzzle out whether they are scolding a hawk, a bobcat, or perhaps yourself!

Norris Center Resources

The Norris Center houses a collection of approximately 1,200 study skins and 30 fully mounted birds, including western species with a strong emphasis on marine birds.  There are also a diversity of spread wings, feet, and other partial specimens appropriate for illustrating bird adaptations.  The collection is appropriate to support classes in vertebrate evolution and ornithology.  With the help of volunteers and student interns, the museum is actively preparing new specimens and adding to the collection. You can search our bird collections on Arctos. Contact for any questions about our bird collection.

birds of ucsc coverNorris Center undergraduate Benny Jacobs-Schwartz recently published a field guide to the birds of UCSC. Find the book here on Amazon, or come in to the Norris Center for a discounted price. 

Overview of Seabird Breeding Habitat Restoration in California: Focus on Año Nuevo Island

Norris Center Student Award Winner Danielle Devincenzi wrote a senior thesis on habitat restoration for seabirds at Año Nuevo Island. Devincenzi also made a guide to the breeding seabirds of Año Nuevo State Park.

Using Ptilochronology to Investigate Cross-Seasonal Effects of Condition on Winter Social Traits in a Migratory Sparrow

Norris Center Student Award Winner Dylan Pereira studied the effects of seasons on the growth patterns of social signals in Golden Crowned Sparrows. Pereira found that feather growth was closely tied to nutrition, rather than genetics, indicating that winter social traits may be closely tied to environmental factors from the previous season. 

A guide to Ornithology and Mammalian Collections within Natural History Museums

Webster Fellow Brian Johnson created a guide to the best practices when curating, organizing and caring for a natural history collection of bird and mammal specimens based on his work at the Norris Center and at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

Creating a Sit Spot and Making a Bird Sound Map

Check out this great video by the Bird School Project about how to make a sit spot, observe birds and record your observations in your field journal. 


Birding in Santa Cruz/Monterey Counties:

Santa Cruz Bird Club

The Santa Cruz Bird Club has been organizing local bird-watching events for well over 50 years. Learn what species have been seen in SC county, find information on becoming a birder yourself.

Birds of the UCSC Arboretum & Environs

A checklist of bird species that may be viewed at the Arboretum at UCSC.

Birding in Santa Cruz County

A list of birdwatching locations throughout Santa Cruz county, and checklist of bird species.

Monterey Bay Birding Festival

Sign up for the annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival! Includes educational family activities (such as crafts and stories), as well as organized full-day field trips to birding locations.


California eBird

Submit data about your own bird watching experience or find out where bird species have been spotted by others!


The National Audubon Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to avian conservation since 1905. Audubon's site hosts an extensive collection of interesting birding articles, beautiful photographs, and information on Audubon chapters near you.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell labs is a nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1915. Read birding articles, join a bird workshop, or take an online course. Try the Merlin photo ID, which automatically guides species identification based on a submitted photo!

Sibley Guides

Website of the publisher of the popular birding feild guide, The Sibley Guide to Birds. Sibley's website posts nature articles on birds and trees, and hosts educational quizzes. The site also sells prints and original artwork by David Sibley.

Birding for Beginners:

Bird Watching for Beginners

A tutorial on bird watching for beginners!


The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching

What is bird watching anyway? Why do people do it, and why should you do it? This extensive beginners guide will help anyone get started in looking for our feathered friends.


The Young Birder's Backyard Guide 

A great site for beginner birders who want to learn the bird basics. Includes links to interesting natural history bird patterns that will help you identify birds in different environmental settings.


National Geographic: Backyard Bird Identifier

Wondering who's visiting your back yard? Try the Backyard Bird Identifier! Simply enter when and where you saw the bird and pick a size category to find out who it might have been!

Binoculars and Beyond: Nine Tips for Beginning Bird Watchers

Interested in taking up birding? This article hosted by Cornell labs gives tips on finding the right gear and starting your journey.

Bird Watching for Couch Potatoes

A furnature store might be the last place you'd think to look for bird watching tips, yet Sofas and Sectionals has written up a neat little article on the joy of beginning birding.

A Guide to Attracting Songbirds to Your Backyard

Helpful hints for creating an environment in your backyard to attract common songbirds in your area. 

Find a Bird Count near you:

Nature Alley: California Christmas Bird Counts

Join a bird count in California. Counts take place between mid-December and the first week of January. Results of the count are published by National Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.