Skip Navigation

Birds

Rufous-sided TowheeThe Monument is painted in thousands of shades of brown and gray; brightly colored birds flitting through provide just the right accents.

Approximately 238 species of birds have been documented on or near the Monument, 36 of which are common and 40 are accidental visitors. The Monument provides habitat for year-round residents, migratory species that breed on the site, winter residents, and migrants that are passing through to or from breeding grounds.

Mature sagebrush stands are perhaps the most important habitat on the Monument because large blocks of sagebrush in good condition are a dwindling resource in the Columbia Basin Ecoregion. Horned larks and meadowlarks are the most abundant breeding birds in the sagebrush/bunchgrass habitats. The Brewer's sparrow is more common in the three-tip sagebrush communities at higher elevations. The Brewer's sparrow and sage sparrow are sagebrush obligates and require sagebrush stands for nesting. Other species closely tied to sagebrush occurrence include loggerhead shrikes and sage thrashers. Loggerhead shrikes are commonly observed in dense sagebrush stands of the Monument.

The large expanses of bunchgrass habitat on the Monument provide hunting, nesting, and resting areas a number of bird species. Native bunchgrass habitat is used for foraging by a variety of raptors including Swainson's hawks, golden eagles, prairie falcons, short-eared owls, and red-tailed hawks, among others. Meadowlarks, horned larks, and grasshopper sparrows are some of the ground-nesting birds that are commonly found in bunchgrass habitat on the Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) Reserve. Burrowing owls and Swainson's hawks also have been documented nesting and feeding in bunchgrass habitat.

Riparian habitat is a scarce but important resource for birds on the Monument. The sharp contrast with the adjacent shrub-steppe habitat, the presence of trees, and the abundant cover make these areas focal points for predator and prey. Although the total area occupied by riparian habitat is small, the avian diversity is higher than the surrounding shrub-steppe. Riparian habitats are used by neotropical migrants, such as western wood peewees, Say's phoebes, western kingbirds, and resident downy woodpeckers and northern flickers. Trees are rare on the Monument landscape and therefore provide an important resource for a number of birds. Raptors will perch, hunt from, or nest in trees in the riparian zone, or they may be attracted by the presence of prey species. Barn owls, long-eared owls, great-horned owls, red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, and Swainson's hawks regularly use riparian zones. Chuckars, California quail, and mourning doves find abundant cover from predators in the riparian zones. Red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds breed along watercourses. Songbirds documented using the Monument riparian zones include ruby-crowned kinglets and golden-crowned kinglets, warbling vireos, orange-crowned warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, MacGillivray's warblers, and Wilson's warblers, among others. In the winter, riparian zones are used by dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, American robins, Townsend's solitaires, and other species.

Riverine habitat along the Hanford Reach is used extensively by mallards, Canada geese and other waterfowl for wintering and the island habitats for nesting. Great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowned night-herons, and other water-related birds have also been noted using the river corridor and islands. Double crested cormorants, American white pelicans and several species of gulls and terns also use these areas.

Interested in downloading our Bird List?

Page Photo Credits — Rufous-sided Towhee - Chuck & Grace Bartlett
Last Updated: May 03, 2013
Return to main navigation