Experts from Audubon California recently joined the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and Western Field Ornithologists to survey Tejon Ranch for Purple Martins. Check out the video:
Purple Martins, while common and widespread in the east, are relatively rare and sparsely distributed in California. A combination of historical declines and the small population size led the California Department of Fish and Game to designate the Purple Martin a Species of Special Concern. In contrast to eastern birds, which nest almost exclusively in man-made boxes, California Purple Martins nest mainly in natural cavities in trees (with the population using weep holes in highway overpasses in the Sacramento area a notable exception).
The surveyors on Tejon Ranch found 22 nesting pairs of Purple Martins. Birds usually chose one of the larger trees, generally located at or near the tops of ridges in fairly open settings. This concentration of nesting Purple Martins is extraordinary by California standards and suggests that this area may be an important stronghold for the species in this state.
Of course, Tejon Ranch is a biologist’s dream, so the group saw a lot more than Purple Martins. At last count, the researchers saw nearly 80 bird species, including California Condors, nesting Brewer’s Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhees, MacGillivray’s Warblers, Pygmy Owl, and Great-horned Owl. There were also large numbers of Lawrence's Goldfinches, Western Bluebirds, White-breasted Nuthatches, Violet-green Swallows … the list just goes on. The group also saw plenty of bobcats and coyotes.
Audubon California’s Rodd Kelsey got some good shots of the Purple Martins and the spectacular scenery: