Bird Babies in Alameda in 2021

 Double-crested Cormorants show two crests of feathers  and bright aquamarine eyes during breeding season.
Photo Rick Lewis - Double-crested Cormorants show two crests of feathers and bright aquamarine eyes during breeding season.

Bird Babies in Alameda in 2021

The birds that nest and raise young in Alameda had varying degrees of success this year.

Least Terns: Our most famous residents, the endangered California Least Terns at the Alameda Wildlife Reserve at Alameda Point had a challenging year. Predators, including Peregrine Falcons, captured chicks and adults and there were signs that fish small enough for the newly-hatched chicks to swallow were in short supply in the weeks when the chicks were hatching. Even with those problems, it is estimated that about 200 fledgling Least Terns left the colony to travel south for the winter.

Peregrine Falcons: For at least the 13th year, Peregrine Falcons “nested” successfully on the Fruitvale Bridge. They don’t build a nest, but lay their eggs on a ledge, switching between the Alameda and the Oakland Towers. This year, two male and one female peregrines fledged but one egg did not hatch. In May, a team from the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz banded the three chicks. The adult peregrines are year-round residents and roost on the bridge nightly. The two birds now breeding there usually lay eggs in mid to late March and the young usually leave by late August. Over the years, new birds have replaced older peregrines and the new pairs may lay eggs any time from mid-February to mid-April.

Western Bluebirds: At least five pairs of Western Bluebirds successfully raised chicks in 2021 in the nest boxes at Crab Cove. But several nest boxes are in disrepair and need to be replaced; perhaps new boxes would help more bluebirds nest successfully, so we would see more Western Bluebirds around the city.

Great Blue Herons: Great Blue Herons filled the nests in trees in the Alameda Wildlife Reserve again this year. Observers looking from what is called De-Pave Park at the end of Monarch Street reported 14 young birds, all of which seem to have learned to fly. In the fall, several Great Blue Herons can usually be seen in the Wildlife Reserve. Because the heron’s poop contains a high concentration of minerals, which accumulate over the years, any tree where they nest eventually dies; the trees at the Reserve are dying, or already dead.

Double-Crested Cormorants: While we don’t have accurate numbers from past years, we can report that the main nesting tree on Lagoon 3, across from South Shore Center on Otis Drive, was full of nests (23) with young Double-Crested Cormorants. The cormorants are also building nests in nearby trees, but not all the neighbors are pleased — poop as well as fallen leaves and branches create a mess under each nest and, like the herons’ poop, the cormorants’ poop slowly kills the trees.

Osprey: People were seen on the jetty which allows approach to the Osprey nest. It is thought disturbances have caused the Ospreys to abandon their nest this year after nesting at the Seaplane Lagoon for some 10 years. It seemed the adults might renest, but they didn’t, although they stayed at the lagoon for the summer. A fledgling Osprey and adult male have been seen at the eastern end of the island, often on light poles at the Otis Street bridge, but no one has yet found a nest on the east end of the island. They may be visiting from “out of town.”

Egrets: Alameda’s Bay Farm Island colony of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets had fewer nests this year. Unlike past years, Great Egrets occupied the majority of the nests this year, but you can often see Snowy Egrets and a few Great Egrets along Alameda’s shoreline.

Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve is the Alameda Conservation Committee for the Golden Gate Audubon Society.