Denise Dewire
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Bird Watching in Ventura (and surroundings)

Ventura — and its surrounding wilds — provides a host of lovely and unforgettable bird watching opportunities. And you can even see bald eagles from the comfort of your home (read on).

Elevation in Ventura County varies from sea level to 8,831 feet at the summit of Mt. Pinos. Mugu Lagoon, the Los Padres National Forest, and the Channel Islands (five of which are part of Channel Islands National Park) are globally recognized bird areas. Close to 500 bird species have been recorded in the county, including a Xantus’s Hummingbird.

Trips to Channel Islands National Park (highly recommended!) can be scheduled through Island Packers. The Channel Islands National Park is recognized as an important breeding and resting area for a huge variety of seabirds. California brown pelicans, black oystercatchers, storm petrels, cormorants, Xantus’s murrelets, peregrine falcons, horned larks, several kinds of owls (they fly across the Santa Barbara Channel to feed on deer mice), majestic bald eagles and the rare island scrub-jay, found nowhere else in the world but Santa Cruz Island (it’s the only island endemic bird species in North America).

Seabirds

Channel Islands National Park is recognized as a critical breeding and resting area for a variety of seabirds. The rich marine food sources and isolated islands (ie free of many predators) support vast colonies of seabirds. Indeed, the park’s colonies and the surrounding waters are used for foraging are vital for the survival of several seabird species. Although the mainland may provide roosting areas, in many cases seabirds depend on the islands for breeding and nesting success. Collectively, the islands constitute a major seabird breeding area in the eastern north Pacific, the largest such area in the United States south of the Farallon Islands. How important? Half of the world’s population of ashy storm-petrels and western gulls, 80% of the U.S. breeding population of Xantus’s murrelets (33.5% of the world’s population and the only breeding ground north of Mexico), and the only major breeding population of California brown pelicans in the western U.S. occur in the park.

Landbirds

Landbird populations and species compositions on the islands change from year to year, depending on mainland species that reach the islands, changes in habitats, competitors or predators that arrive or leave the islands, or areas that are disturbed by people.

Nine raptor species live in the park, and they are primarily seen on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. Hawks and owls also occur intermittently on Anacapa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara, which have limited habitat to support these birds.

Several bird species disappeared from the park during the 20th century. An endemic subspecies of song sparrow (Melospiza melodia graminea) on Santa Barbara was driven to extinction due to habitat destruction by introduced rabbits, direct predation by feral cats, and a fire in 1959 that destroyed much of its habitat. On a happier front, thanks to tireless efforts by researchers and Channel Islands National Park service staff, bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) have staged a near miraculous comeback on the islands. Was a time they had largely disappeared from the islands, due, in large part, to reproductive failure caused by organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT. However reintroduction has been a global success story — and an example of what can happen when we put our efforts toward a right thing. Read about their recovery here.

And, with happy success in mind, why not have a look at the Channel Islands Bald Eagle Nest Cam Live Video Stream?

Another excellent source for local birding information is, no surprise, the Ventura Audubon Society.

And, before you go, have a look at the art of bird marveling, courtesy of Ventura artist Claudia Pardo.

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