Birds of Prairies and Oak Woodlands

Redwood National and State Parks possess some habitats that don’t resemble a redwood forest in the least. Two of these habitats are the closely intertwined prairies and oak woodlands, located in the Bald Hills on the slopes above the redwood forest on the east side of Redwood Creek. The Bald Hills are not truly “bald” in the sense of lacking vegetation, and are not the same as “Serpentine Balds” (e.g., the Little Bald Hills in the north of the parks). Instead they are dominated by a mix of perennial and annual grasses and forbs, with some wet seeps containing sedges and rushes. White oaks dominate the oak woodlands with scattered black oaks and California bay. This mosaic of prairies and oak woodlands creates optimal habitat for some species of birds that are not likely to be seen in any other location within Redwood National and State Parks.

Hiking through the oaks in spring you are likely to detect both Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) and California Quail (Callipepla californica). Male Sooty Grouse utter a low, nearly inaudible, boom as they strut and try to attract females. The California Quail may be heard when they loudly call “Chi-ca-go...Chi-ca-go.” Noteworthy throughout the year are the entertaining Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formiscivorus); clown like in appearance and noisy, they fly from oak to oak depositing acorns in nut granaries they chisel in snags or dying trees. Other year round residents in the Bald Hills include Scrub Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens), and flocks of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) and Band-tailed Pigeons (Columba fasciata). In summertime, however, the bird that dominates the scene in the Bald Hills is the Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena). The bright turquoise males are difficult to miss; on many days this may be the most common bird observed. Another summer visitor that sometimes breeds in the Bald Hills is the Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum). This inconspicuous little sparrow makes a sound similar to that for which it’s named- an insect-like buzz, or trill. One bird that has recently invaded the Bald Hills is the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). This striking game bird is not native to California, but was introduced in the area for hunting. Although some enjoy seeing it, parks staff view it as pest.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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