SF Watch List


Dan Murphy <murphsf@...>
 

Hi,

This is a little project I've been working on since spring. I want to
develop a Watch List for Golden Gate Audubon which idenitfies bird
species which are in trouble in SF. Please review the list below and
forward any comments to me. I won't respond for over a week since we're
off to Yosemite tomorrow. It is my thought this may give people who are
commenting on environmental matters something to focus on, it may give
city planners information to better plan our parks and openspaces, it
may give birders another thing or two to look for, and finally it might
be a small step in helping other urbanizing communities reduce impacts
on birds and other wildlife.

Note that most species on this list are not threatened with extinction.
Most are doing just fine everywhere but SF. That's the point.

IF YOU ARE ON THE SF BIRDS LIST AND YOU DON'T WISH TO COMMENT ON THIS
CONSERVATION MATTER JUST DELETE NOW. SORRY TO HAVE BOTHERED YOU.

Thanks, Dan

SAN FRANCISCO WATCH LIST

The following is a list of bird species in San Francisco which are
extirpated, threatened with extirpation or in danger of severe impacts
from any of a number of causes associated with urbanization. The point
of this list is to bring to the public's attention the plight of birds
in this highly urbanized community. It might also be used as a baseline
for other communities which are rapidly urbanizing.

EXTIRPATED: These are species of birds which no longer regularly occur
in San Francisco except at vagrants. They have been lost during the
past 10 years.

Wrentit
Recent Records: The Presidio of San Francisco above Baker's Beach and
above Lobos Creek. The Baker's Beach population has been noted for
several years, but it has not been reported in the 2000 season. The
Lobos Creek population was found during the past 5 years but has not
been noted for at least 2 seasons.
North Lake Merced: A single bird was heard singing at the northeastern
area of the lake in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
McLaren Park: A single bird was observed in a cypress tree in the
spring of 2000.
Status in SF: extirpated.
Listing: none
Conservation: This species decline is most likely due to loss of
habitat in terms of total area and fragmentation. As the coastal scrub
and willow habitats in which it can be expected to reside were destroyed
for urban development and naturalistic parklands the remaining
population of this species was isolated and apparently reached the
threshold beyond which it could not sustain itself.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Formerly a common breeding species in SF.
Status in SF: extirpated nesting species, irruptive migrant with annual
fall records varying from a few birds to hundreds which remain into
winter. See below for its status as an irruptive species.
Conservation: Habitat loss and competition with other species such as
Pygmy Nuthatch have been a problem. One of the last 2 known nests
(early 1980's) was lost when the Monterey cypress in which it was
nesting was cut by Rec and Park crews. A second nest was lost when the
pinaster pine in which it was located blew down during an unseasonal
storm.

Horned Lark: This species occurred in small numbers in dirt parking
lots at Candlestick Park. It was never a breeding species in SF.
Status in SF: 10+/- birds were resident in the dirt parking lots near
Candlestick Park.
Conservation: The population declined when Candlestick State Park was
developed. It was always marginal at best, but appears extirpated now.

Loggerhead Shrike: Formerly occurred in open areas such as Lake Merced,
Golden Gate Park, McLaren Park and Candlestick Park.
Status in SF: There do not appear to be any regularly occurring birds
in winter. There are no nesting records for SF County. It is now
accidental, occurring some years but not all.
Conservation: Restoration of this species is unlikely. It's habitat
requirements seem inconsistent with dense urbanization, even with
parklands which are available in SF. The mesa at Lake Merced once
supported a wintering shrike. It's occurrence stopped when trees were
planted to screen the open area from the Lake Merced Blvd. The marginal
numbers of birds at Candlestick Point were lost when the State Park was
developed.

Yellow Warbler: This species was thought to breed in SF in the past.
Status in SF: Singing males have been noted at Lake Merced in the
past. It is uncertain whether local conditions or a range wide
population decline are the reason for the probable loss of this breeding
species. None have been reported in recent years.
Conservation: Preservation of riparian habitat may enable this species
to return at some point.

EXTIRPATION POTENTIAL PROBABLE: The following species have very low
populations and appear to be loosing numbers. It is likely they will
join the extirpated list if radical action is not taken to protect them
and their surroundings and to increase their habitats.

Snowy Plover: Present in small numbers from July through April. There
are no breeding records for SF County.
Status in SF: A wintering flock of 15+/- can be found on Ocean Beach
between Sloat Blvd. and Lincoln Way. Single birds have been noted at
the beach at Crissy Field, though not in the past few years. It is
likely they use beaches or uplands away from Ocean Beach during winter
storm tides.
Conservation: The single flock of Snowy Plovers is subject to impacts
from off leash dogs, people walking and running on the beaches, natural
predators such as gulls, hawks, etc., and most recently from National
Park Service vehicles which patrol Ocean Beach.

California Quail
Recent Records: The Presidio of San Francisco. The population there is
composed of pairs near the housing units near Washington and in the area
of Kobbe and Upton. It is likely there are other remnant populations in
the Presidio. Golden Gate Park. The population is restricted to a
population of 2 or 3 females and several males in the Arboretum. Fort
Funston. The species has not been noted in 2000, but 2 or 3 pairs
nested successfully in the restoration areas at the north end of Fort
Funston during the previous 2 or 3 years. It is likely there is a
remnant population in the Olympic Club Golf Course. Lake Merced. A few
birds were released near the Rod and Gun Club during the fall of 1999,
but they have not been reported since early spring 2000.
Status in SF: almost extirpated
Conservation: Cat and dog predation appear the most likely cause of the
population decline. Quail consistently disappeared from parks as cat
colonies were established. They also disappeared from parklands as
unleashed dog walking became a common practice in parks such as Fort
Funston and Sigmund Stern Grove. Predation by Scrub Jay has been
observed in the Arboretum. Predaton by other corvids is likely.
Habitat seems relatively unchanged since there were hundreds of birds.
It is likely restoration of native scrub habitat would benefit the
species, but without controls on domestic animals it is unlikely they
will successfully reinhabit SF.

Bank Swallow
This species nests at a single site in the exposed bluffs of the Merced
Formation at Fort Funston facing the ocean. Their sole feeding site is
at Lake Merced. This is one of only 2 remaining Bank Swallow colonies
on the California coast. A third colony is rumored at a quarry near
Bodega.
Status in SF: Stable breeding species, but limited habitat make it
subject to any of a number of environmental impacts including but not
limited to unseasonal storms, landslides at the colony site, vandalism
of the colony, predation by ravens and other predatory birds,
destruction of the food source at Lake Merced, pesticide use at nearby
golf courses.

Hutton's Vireo: Only a few nest in San Francisco. Their habitat is
restricted to oaks and similar woodlands, often near water. Fewer than
10 probable nesting pairs are reported each year.
Status in SF: Nesting remains probable in Golden Gate Park, Land's End,
the Presidio, Mt. Davidson, McLaren Park and Glen Park. There is some
post breeding dispersal.
Conservation: Habitat is limited because of limited use of oaks in SF
parks. Air pollution is a limiting factor in lichen growth, necessary
for nest building. It seems less a problem than in the past. This
species is subject to Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism.

Bewick's Wren
This species is limited to very few areas in SF. Numbers are small
enough to be marginal. Known breeding areas are Lake Merced and Fort
Funston.
Status in SF: Birds have been extirpated from all of the City except
for the west side of Lake Merced and Fort Funston. There are probably
fewer than 8 pairs remaining. Status in winter may be higher due to
migratory birds.
Conservation: Area wide habitat loss is the most likely reason for the
loss of this species. Locally it is a species associated with coastal
scrub and other shrublands. It is abundant elsewhere, but lack of
habitat in SF is an identifiable problem. Removal of exotic trees and
shrubs at Fort Funston would most likely cause the extirpation of
Bewick's Wren from San Francisco.

Marsh Wren: Known only to nest at Lake Merced.
Status in SF: All breeding pairs are at Lake Merced so any major work
which would destroy the marsh would seriously impact this species and
perhaps drive it to extirpation.
Conservation: This species appears stable in SF. Any projects to
increase or decrease water levels at Lake Merced, or to remove large
amounts of bulrush should consider impacts on this species.

Common Yellowthroat: Known only to nest at Lake Merced. It does occur
as a migrant in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere in SF.
Status in SF: All breeding pairs are at Lake Merced so any major work
which would destroy the marsh would seriously impact this species and
perhaps drive it to extirpation. Common Yellowthroat is subject to
Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism.
Conservation: This species appears stable in SF. Though Federally
listed as threatened the Lake Merced population appears stable.
Any projects to increase or decrease water levels at Lake Merced, or to
remove large amounts of bulrush should consider impacts on this species.


Spotted Towhee
This species remains wide spread but in continually declining numbers.
There is a singing male on Mt. Davidson. A singing male has been noted
above Baker's Beach in the Presidio. It is likely other birds remain in
the oak woodlands in the eastern part of Golden Gate Park and most
likely in McLaren and Glen Parks.
Status in SF: population is rapidly declining and extirpation is
immanent.
Conservation: Habitat loss appears to be a major factor in the loss of
this species. The removal of dense ground vegetation in De la Veaga
Dell in Golden Gate Park ended this species' use of that area. It is
likely that is the cause of its disappearance elsewhere in SF. It's
decline parallels the increase of off leash dog walking and feral cat
feeding. It is likely uncontrolled pets have a secondary impact on this
species.

HIGH RISK: The following species are not imminently threatened with
extirpation, but their numbers are few and/or their habitat is limited,
so a single event could eliminate them from the San Francisco avifauna.

Brandt's Cormorant: This species nests on Seal Rocks and perhaps on
Alcatraz. It is also breeds on the Farrallon Islands and elsewhere
along the coast. It is present throughout the year.
Status in SF: Brandt's Cormorant is highly variable in numbers.
Nesting appears related to food sources so its status from year to year
is in question.
Conservation: Brandt's Cormorant is subject to the same impacts as
other coastal nesting species. Oil spills are primary among these.
Impacts from commercial fishing and jet skis have been observed.

Pelagic Cormorant: May breed on coastal cliffs and feeds off shore.
Status in SF: A few pairs probably breed on the cliffs just north of
Sutro Baths.
Conservation: Subject to impacts from oil spills and perhaps people
climbing on the cliffs.

Double-crested Cormorant: This species has recently started breeding at
two sites at Lake Merced. Historically, it was the dominant breeding
species on Seal Rocks.
Status in SF: This species is resident throughout the year. It has
only nested at Lake Merced since about 1995. There is a large colony on
the underside of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge which straddles
the county line. It can be found in all lakes, the bay and the ocean.
Conservation: This species is threatened by reconstruction of the San
Francisco Bay Bridge. The Lake Merced population is threatened by
fishermen who can frequently be seen shooting at them with slingshots
from fishing beaches. The possibility of impacts from tree trimming, or
actual removal, in the eucalyptus groves adjacent to Skyline Blvd. must
be considered a serious threat to Double-crested Cormorant.

Pigeon Guillemot: Breeds on coastal cliffs and feeds off shore.
Status in SF: A few pairs probably breed on the cliffs just north of
Sutro Baths.
Conservation: Subject to impacts from oil spills and perhaps people
climbing on the cliffs.

Great Blue Heron: Present through the year, but has recently been
recorded nesting.
Status in SF: Individuals are regular in SF during the non breeding
season. Non breeding birds remain in the City during the nesting
season. During the past several years a colony has been established at
Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park and 2 colonies have been established at
Lake Merced. In all there are presently about a dozen nests in SF.
Conservation: Great Blue Heron appears to be doing well in the Bay
Area. The problem for the SF population is the impact of urbanization.
The birds at Stow Lake are subject to impacts from park crews who may
trim trees too close to the nesting trees or who may cut trees with
nests. There are potentially the same impacts for the Lake Merced
colonies. The Golden Gate Park population is also subject to nest loss
from overaged trees which may blow down in a storm. This is less likely
for the Lake Merced population which nests in eucalyptus which are not
as old as the Golden Gate Park trees. Both populations are subject to
impacts on food availablilty such as might occur with lake restoration
projects.

Sora: Present through much of the year at Lake Merced and infrequently
in wetlands elsewhere.
Status in SF: Sora is not known to breed in SF, but it is likely to do
so at Lake Merced. Any major work which would destroy the marsh would
seriously impact this species and perhaps drive it to extirpation.
Conservation: This species appears stable in SF. Any projects to
increase or decrease water levels at Lake Merced, or to remove large
amounts of bulrush should consider impacts on this species.

Virginia Rail: Present through much of the year at Lake Merced and
infrequently in wetlands elsewhere.
Status in SF: Virginia Rail is not known to breed in SF, but it is
likely to do so at Lake Merced. Any major work which would destroy the
marsh would seriously impact this species and perhaps drive it to
extirpation.
Conservation: This species appears stable in SF. Any projects to
increase or decrease water levels at Lake Merced, or to remove large
amounts of bulrush should consider impacts on this species.

Black Oystercatcher: Resident on coastal rocks. A pair breeds annually
on Seal Rocks.
Status in SF: The population is limited to a single pair on Seal Rocks
and perhaps a one or two others on the cliffs at Land's End.
Conservation: Subject to impacts from oil spills and predation from
Western Gulls.

American Avocet: This species is regular, though low in numbers along
the Bay shore of SF.
Status in SF: The breeding population is limited to a couple of pairs
which may breed at Pier 98/Heron's Head Park. Individuals are noted
annually at other sites along the Bay and at Lake Merced.
Conservation: Major threat would be from off leash dogs or from people
walking on nests. Gull or Raven predation may also be a problem.

Barn Owl: Present Status: This species has been noted most recently at
Lake Merced. Reports of Barn Owls in the trees near the maintenance
buildings at Harding Golf Course are made annually. There have been
recent reports from around Hunter's Point. The Golden Gate Park
population seems to be extirpated. They roosted in the trees across the
street from Mallard Lake, but since the trees were trimmed several years
ago there have been no reports and there owl pellets are no longer found
in the area.
Conservation: The SF population is limited and poorly understood. It
is certain Barn Owl is marginal as an SF species.

Western Screech Owl: Present in small numbers in oak woodlands.
Status in SF: Populations have been recorded in the eastern end of
Golden Gate Park and near the Arguello Gate of the Presidio.
Conservation: The very low numbers of this species and the limited
knowledge we have of them make their situation difficult to assess.
They may have been displaced from de la Viega Dell when the Aids
Memorial Grove renovation took place. Care of oak woodlands and their
understory are critical to the continued existence of this species in
San Francisco.

Cliff Swallow: Nests in colonies on the sides of buildings. They feed
over lakes, wetlands and parklands.
Status in SF: Nests in colonies on the concrete bridge at the south end
of Lake Merced and on stable buildings in Golden Gate Park. It is
probably other nest sites occur in SF.
Conservation: This species is threatened with loss through nest
destruction by people. San Francisco State University cleared the
library building of a colony a number of years ago. There is no
indication they did so during the nesting season. Swallow colonies are
messy and bothersome to some, so there is pressure to remove them. They
are also subject to vandalism. Existing colonies should be identified
and protected. As new ones are developed they should be protected as
well.

White-crowned Sparrow Widesperead in parks and yards. Nests in low
shrubs.
Status in SF: The population of this species has crashed in recent
years, particularly in Golden Gate Park. Documented problems include
the increase of feral cats in most city parks and the loss of scrub
habitat.
Conservation: Loss of habitat and the presence of feral cats appears to
be a primary problem. Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism may be
significant as well. White-crowned Sparrows have done well in
restoration areas such as the north end of Fort Funston and above
Baker's Beach.

Species new to SF as breeding species
Gadwall
Cooper's Hawk
Hairy Woodpecker
Steller's Jay

Irruptive species whose numbers are subject to variables, particularly
in terms of food availability.
Band-tailed Pigeon
Red-breasted Nuthatch (fall, winter, spring)
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin

THESE ARE SPECIES THAT WERE SUGGESTED WHEN I FIRST THOUGH UP THIS IDEA.
I DON'T THINK THEY NEED TO BE ON THE LIST, BUT IF YOU DO PLEASE INDICATE
WHY AND WHERE YOU WOULD PUT THEM.
Lesser Goldfinch
American Kestrel
Winter Wren
Burrowing Owl
White-throated Swift
Acorn Woodpecker?
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Swainson's Thrush
Orange-crowned Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch