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Winter Bird Migration on the Landmarks

PictureRed-tailed hawks

It’s winter on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks! While many U.S. states are experiencing snow, Orange County residents get to enjoy comfortable temperatures year-round thanks to our Mediterranean climate. And we’re not the only ones who take advantage of our favorable winter weather.
During wintertime, the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks experience a substantial increase in bird activity due to seasonal migrations. These migrations are in response to changing weather and availability of food and nesting locations. Winter rains rejuvenate and bring life to the Landmarks, providing an abundance of food and shelter for local and migratory birds.

Sea and Sage Audubon Society, in partnership with Irvine Ranch Conservancy, goes out every year to conduct the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) wildlife census in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon. During each CBC, birders collect data to assess the health of bird populations and help guide conservation action.
“Christmas Bird Counts were instituted over 100 years ago when people viewed wildlife as more of a consumable resource and did so beyond the capacity of certain species’ ability to recover,” said Sea and Sage Audubon Society Board Director Bruce Aird. “When people figured out that was happening, they started CBCs as a way of monitoring what was happening to bird populations.”
On December 15, Bruce and his team recorded over 50 different bird species, including Cooper’s Hawk, Fox Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Acorn Woodpeckers, California Scrub-Jays, Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Red-shouldered Hawks, Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls. Each group records sightings using the eBird app, which is managed by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. The app automatically tracks time, location and route data. The data from the CBC is then correlated and analyzed by the National Audubon Society.
“There have been many changes recorded over the years, as populations of particular species grow or shrink in response to larger phenomena in the environment,” said Aird. “As the climate and environment changes, there are broader patterns reflecting global changes in some species’ occurrence.”
Irvine Ranch Conservancy, along with landowners OC Parks, City of Irvine and City of Newport Beach, works year-round to preserve habitats on the Landmarks to ensure that bird species and other wildlife have the resources they need to survive.
Next time you head out on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, be sure to keep an eye out for the wide variety of birds that make Orange County their home during the winter. For more information about activities where you can spot migratory birds on the Landmarks, visit