Person of Interest: Ryan Winkleman, A Prominent Member of the O.C. Birding Community

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

How did you get into birding?

I started around 2010. I took some ornithology classes through UC Riverside extension, and then it became my hobby as well as my occupation. Before birds, I was focusing mainly on amphibians and reptiles. But birds are much more ubiquitous. There are 10,000 species in the world, and in California alone there are almost 700. So it became a fun challenge to learn them all.

What do you do for the community?

I keep track of status and distribution, which means knowing how common a bird is in this area and where it can be found. I compile a quarterly report of the county for a scientific publication published through the American Bird Association. I also co-run the Orange County Birding online discussion forum where people post their sightings. I along with Jeff Bray put together a weekly Rare Bird Alert that lists the rare birds that have been spotted.

What are some of the rare ones to look out for?

During the spring and fall migrations, you’ll see calliope hummingbirds, willow flycatchers, and cuckoos. There is one species that will be migrating this month, which is the rufous hummingbird.

Do you have a favorite species?

My favorite—and some people would probably roll their eyes at this—is the broad-tailed hummingbird. I personally found the first record of it in Orange County, in 2016. It’s a cool bird. They usually breed in the mountain states, and they’re known for going into a state of torpor at night, which means they slow down their heartbeats and shut down their bodies to save energy in the cold. I just love them.

Learn more!

Winkleman recommends joining the Sea and Sage Audubon Society on birding field trips around O.C.

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