Monday, March 29, 2010

The Birds of Redondo

Since this blog sometimes gets a little monotonous, with story after story about me and my music, every so often I like to mix it up a little. Now is one of those times.

I live in a suburb of Los Angeles, CA called Redondo Beach. As the name implies, it's a seaside community, and as such we have a pretty cool collection of fauna that make their habitats here. I enjoy nature a lot, and find inspiration for my songwriting from the sea, the stars, and the animals I see around me. One thing that people tend to overlook here in Redondo is the aviary life that's all around us. Granted, none of it is so spectacular that it would have bird lovers flocking here. They're all pretty common birds that can be found in many places. But I still enjoy them for what they are.

Note: I scavenged the photos below from the web and my personal collection. Thanks to Jennifer Cutler's blog for a few of the sea bird shots.

SEA BIRDS

Brown Pelican
The Brown Pelican is actually the smallest member of the pelican family, but it's still a pretty large and spectacular bird with an 8' wingspan and that huge identifiable beak. Kat and I once saw a few of them flying over us, and she asked if we were being invaded by dragons. You can see the big dudes down around the Redondo Pier throughout the year.

Seagull
We have at least a couple of different seagull species here: the uber-common Western Gull and the slightly more rare Heermann's Gull. Seagulls are often considered pests, but as far as I'm concerned, they have as much right to be here as we do. Maybe more. You can hear gulls crying outside my window every day. It's definitely one of the "sounds of home" for me.

Night Heron
This is another bird you usually only see when you're right at the edge of the water. There are plenty around the pier. The reason that they're called a Night Heron is they're most active after dark, when they hunt. During the day, it's common to see them standing around the boats in King Harbor, sleeping while standing on one leg.

CITY BIRDS

American Crow
Ah, the crow. No one ever seems to care about crows. But they are smart birds, and there's something pretty eerily cool when you walk up to the park around dusk and see a couple hundred of them standing there, staring at you.

Band-tailed Pigeon/Rock Dove
Yeah, every city has pigeons. Some people think of pigeons as disease and bug-infested flying rats. I can't say I'm much different, but they're birds and they deserve some mention here. By the way, the glamorous-sounding "rock dove" is just your typical city pigeon with a fancy name.

SONGBIRDS

House Finch
These are probably the most talkative birds around my neighborhood. All year long, I hear the distinctive twee-tika-tika-tika-tika-trrrrweeeee! sound every time I step outside. They're cute little guys, but pretty aggressive during mating season, and you can see some spectacular mid-air brawls among these red-headed dudes.

European Starling
Here's another much-maligned bird that's considered a pest. I like them. They make cool sounds. In fact, they mimic other birds, and anything else they hear. My two favorite sounds of theirs include their mechanical chattering, and a hilarious wolf-whistle. Wheee-EEEE-eee!

Black Phoebe
These birds are way cool. I love their swooping flight pattern. They camp out in one place -- a tree branch, a fence post, a railing, whatever -- and then they swoop down acrobatically to grab a bug, then take it back to where they were and much. They can do this for hours. They have a cool little chirp, too.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
These are pretty little guys that tend to stay in trees. I don't see them very often on my block, but they're very common in the tree sections toward the south end of the city, which borders Palos Verdes, where they eat bugs and berries.

BIRDS OF PREY

Red-Tailed Hawk
The easiest way to tell if there's a hawk around is to wait for teams of crows and gulls, who mob the hawks as they fly by. "Mobbing" is when birds gang up to force a predatory bird to leave an area. But in any case, there's no mistaking the sound of a hawk cry. These hunters fly higher than just about any other bird around here, but when they're a little lower, it's easy to see why they scare the crap out of everything else. They're big, fast, and mean-looking, and it's awesome when they cruise over my home, as they do pretty regularly.

Osprey
This bird is also known as a Sea Hawk, and we have a good number of them here. Most of them stay right on the water, but these guys are definitely raptors; the curved beak and talons make it clear that they're ready to hunt. The ospreys are easily distinguishable from the other hawks in flight with their solid white underbellies. Our local high school's team name is the Sea Hawks, probably due to the commonality of these birds in the local vicinity.

OTHER BIRDS

Anna's Hummingbird
Even after you've seen them a thousand times, it's still a thrill to have one of these little guys hovering around you. They're all over the place around here, year-round. They make an interesting little click sound that's very identifiable once you're familiar with it.

WTF? BIRDS

Mitred Conures
Why are there conures in Redondo Beach? Great question. While almost all the birds above are completely native to the area, these tropical birds (a small kind of parrot) are most definitely not. The story I've always heard is that their population started when birds being kept as pets either escaped or were freed by their owners. Slowly, over the past 20 years or so, their population has been growing here in Redondo Beach. In any case, you can't help but notice them; they are super loud when they fly by twice a day (morning and evening), and they stay in a tight flock of maybe 50-75 individuals.

There are certainly more birds that make their homes here, but these are the first that popped into my mind when I started writing today. If you have anything you want to share about the birds of Redondo, feel free to drop me a comment!

3 comments:

Encore Design Group said...

Excellent writeup Zak! I can't wait to see an Osprey.

Zak Claxton said...

That photo, as you may be able to tell, shows the Osprey standing on one of the restaurant roofs on the Pier. They're down there pretty often. Let's go see one!

Tharilyn said...

Additionally, some parrots in the beach cities are escapees from the pet store fire on Aviation, in Hermosa. The fire was many years ago and in order to save the birds, their cages were opened and the birds encouraged to fly from danger. Many simply acclimated to life in the wild.
You can find Nanday Conures, Cherry Heads, Blue Half Moons etc. As these birds propagated, their existance in the South Bay was set. They really seem to love the palm trees near Pier Ave. School :)