Which Local Birds Bred Successfully this Year

Rick Lewis -- An adult male Western Bluebird feeds a chick by putting the food in the chick’s throat.
Rick Lewis -- An adult male Western Bluebird feeds a chick by putting the food in the chick’s throat.

Which Local Birds Bred Successfully this Year

Throughout the spring-summer breeding season, people watch carefully to see how successful “our” birds are at raising their young, and many want to hear about the year’s successes and failures.

Birds that build their nests close together in colonies in trees were quite successful this year. The snowy and great egrets on the lagoon on Bay Farm Island have successfully moved to nest in new trees over the past couple of years; at this time of year you can usually see several young snowy egrets along the shoreline at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary.

Likewise, the double-crested cormorants at Lagoon 3, on Otis Drive, were successful, although the acid in their poop has killed one tree which was removed after the breeding season. The great blue herons you can see from De-Pave Park as they nest in the dead trees on the Alameda Wildlife Reserve were also successful in raising about 15 youngsters.

Birders reported seeing black-crown night-heron chicks at Marina Village, so they also may be nesting successfully on the Island.

The great blue heron nests may be the reason the Canada geese were seldom seen at the reserve this year; a couple of people reported seeing herons and a golden eagle taking goslings (baby geese) from the reserve before the geese all moved on. They did nest successfully elsewhere, including at Washington Park. People reported seeing chicks of another large bird, the wild turkey, in Alameda’s East End this year.

The least tern colony on the reserve was also successful this year, in spite of the predation that occurs every year. More than 300 nesting pairs hatched chicks, many of which survived to learn to fly. Later in the summer the first-year terns could occasionally be seen with adults fishing at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary viewing platform. From there later in the summer we also saw two other larger terns, both Caspian and Forster’s.

The Forster’s terns breed inland, then come to the coast where some stay for the winter; most Caspian terns breed inland but some now breed around the San Francisco Bay; most of them go south for the winter.

Seaplane Lagoon, which provides small fish for the least terns, also hosted the osprey pair again this year. From the nest on a platform on a breakwater they successfully taught three birds to fish for themselves, which began to make up for the failure last year, when we think human activity on the breakwater disturbed the birds and they didn’t breed.

Crab Cove hosted many different families. Western bluebirds used five of the seven bluebird boxes. Both downy and nuttall’s woodpeckers nested successfully in the trees along the east side of Crab Cove; another birder pointed out a nest and I watched adult woodpeckers bringing bugs to chicks in the hole in the tree.

Nearby, a palm tree on Eighth Avenue hosted a family of acorn woodpeckers this year for the first time in many years; neighbors enjoyed hearing their distinctive squawking calls.

The peregrine falcon pair were seen frequently at and around the Fruitvale Bridge again this year, but for the first time in several years they were not successful. While we all love to watch peregrines, the absence of young to feed may have lessened the predation of least terns at the other end of the Island.

Many of our nesting birds have now left for other parts of the country, leaving all of us to enjoy our winter visitors, as well as year-round residents. Look for the bluebirds when you are next at Crab Cove.