They Deserve to Live

More than 90 different species of birds visit Chavez Park, and some of them nest and raise their young here. The Red-winged Blackbirds take over the northwest corner of the park in spring and build their nests in the dense fennel forest. Song Sparrows breed and nest here, as do Savannah Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks. House Finches raise a big brood here. Lately European Starlings have found nesting sites in the forested grove on the west side. Occasionally there are Barn Owl chicks. White-tailed Kites have nested here as well. There may be others.

When birds build a nest, they express confidence in the habitat. That habitat may be fennel or other bushy vegetation, as with the blackbirds and finches. It may be trees, as with the starlings and the raptors. Sparrows and meadowlarks build their nests close to the ground in tall grasses. Wherever they build, they believe that the spot is safe enough to lay eggs, brood, and raise their hatchlings until they can feed themselves and fly.

That’s not always the case in nature or in the park. The blackbird nest pictured above came exposed to human view and predation when Parks management ripped out four feet of fennel next to the paved trail on the north side during breeding season. The pictured eggs and hatchlings probably perished. A large number of blackbird and sparrow nests fell victim to mower blades a few years ago when Parks management slashed a meadow where the vegetation had grown more than knee high, making it an attractive habitat for nesting. Careless dog owners who let their four-legged hunters loose off trail are responsible for the inevitable disturbances to ground-nesting birds.

Like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine, breeding birds show the health of an ecosystem. The birds aren’t fussy. Conditions don’t have to be perfect, but above all there has to be peace and safety. Every mother understands that. Concern for nature mandates protection of bird nesting sites. It’s also the law. Good management avoids mowing of bird habitat during nesting season.

As a Member of the Conservancy, you may become more knowledgeable than the average person about the birds that visit and those that nest in these 90 acres. Here’s a list of the more than 90 species identified and photographed so far. Whether you think of yourself as a birder or not, you will appreciate the contribution that birds make to the park experience. Once you begin to see them, their presence may become infinitely interesting. Their behavior, their song, their plumage, everything about them adds color, sound, intensity, and engagement to a walk in the park. In a word, birds make parks better.

If you agree, become a Conservancy Member.

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