Picking Up Good Migrations
Coyote Valley provides a permanent home to a wide variety of creatures, from colorful insects to wandering bobcats. But the creatures that live in the Valley year-round don’t make up all of the landscape’s remarkable biodiversity. In addition to the residents critters, Coyote Valley plays summer and winter home to many migrating species seeking a hospitable climate. Here are a few of the birds you can find during the winter in Coyote Valley. We’re including species that return year after year, although the odd vagrant bird does show up (shoutout to the crested caracara for paying Coyote Valley a visit way outside its home range).
Making its summer home in the wild country of inland Canada, Barrow’s goldeneye is a striking duck with shiny blue-black plumage. Coyote Valley represents one of the southernmost portions of its range along the west coast of North America, and the ducks come here to make nests and families. The plentiful dragonflies and damselflies of Coyote Valley make a good meal for these birds, which tend to spend their time in ponds, rivers, and streams during the winter. If you’re nearby Coyote Creek or Laguna Seca, look out for them, they’ll likely depart in early spring.
While the female cinnamon teal resembles a duskier mallard duck, the male of the species sports an unmistakable plumage of a rich red-brown that wouldn’t look out of place on an Irish setter. These ducks frequent shallow ponds and make their homes across the western United States and Mexico. Compared to many water birds they are quite fond of seeds and plants as well as insects and small crustaceans. The cinnamon teal is not listed as threatened, but some believe it may be in decline across much of its range and it remains a popular game bird, so it’s important that it retain a winter home in Coyote Valley.
True to name, this foraging species winters in various places around the United States and east and central Mexico, but does its breeding way up north along the Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. But the snow goose takes its name from its white feathers, which make it a rather striking sight when a flock alights. Along with the well-known Canada goose and the smaller cackling goose, the snow goose enjoys winter on Coyote Valley’s grasslands and marshes. Fun fact: some snow geese are not very snowy at all, and have striking grey-blue marbled feathers.
This small, brown and beige bird may look rather ordinary, but it hides a secret–a hot pink shock at the top of its head worthy of any punk rock concert. The birds spend their summers in Canada and parts of the Rocky Mountains, and are known for near-constant wing movement that gives them an excitable look. The ruby crowned kinglet is one of the most common migratory birds in Coyote Valley, so keep an eye out for it if you see a bird that is small, round, and twitchy.
The short-eared owl often spends winters in Coyote Valley hunting small mammals and other birds, flying south from tundra in Canada and Alaska. Although many nocturnal species are difficult to spot, you may have some luck seeing this avian predator in the early evening, as it is more apt to hunt during daylight than most other owl species (despite its name, however, the ear tufts are not always visible). Scientists and bird watchers aren’t sure how many of these owls there are, but they are believed to be at risk from habitat loss across much of their southern range, and Coyote Valley’s rich wildlife and varied habitats can help maintain a home for these charismatic birds of prey.