Flying Beauties

Anna's Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are only found in the western hemisphere. Their name derives from the birds' very rapid wing flapping (80 times/second) that makes a humming sound. As expert fliers, they can fly backwards and upside down, but they don't hop or walk, using their feet only for perching. Due to the hummingbirds' rapid heartbeat and breathing rate, they require lots of food often. They eat flower nectar, tree sap, pollen, and insects. There are 320 species. The bird shown here is the Anna's species which is quite common along the Pacific Coast.

Annas Hummingbird

American Kestrel

Called a sparrow hawk by some, the kestrel is really a falcon. It is the smallest falcon (7-8 inches long) and the only species of kestrel found in the Americas. Perched on utility wires or hovering in the air is where the kestrel is usually sighted. It is the most common falcon found in North America and lives throughout most of the western hemisphere from Alaska to Argentina. Often seen hovering over open fields, its habitat also includes meadows, deserts, and urban/suburban areas where it hunts small mammals, reptiles, and insects.





Lesser Goldfinch

About 4.5inches long, this common variation of the goldfinch is found in a variety of habitats from dry lowlands to high pine forests. It favors thistle and is often seen in small flocks feeding along brushy roadsides.


Cliff Swallows

Attached is a short video (53 seconds) of cliff swallows nesting. We filmed it at the Coyote Creek Trail by the Upper Newport Slough during early spring. These charming birds are delightful to watch as they earnestly build their mud nests. To view, please click here: Cliff Swallows Video (5.5MB - QuickTime format).



Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Averaging 9 inches in length, this dramatic-looking black and white plumed bird lives year-round in western oak woodlands. Besides the red crown patch on its head, the bird has a white iris which adds to its striking appearance. The acorn woodpecker is very social, often living in groups of several breeding males and females. Noted for keeping acorns stored in tree trunks and utility poles, it also feeds on flying insects and ants.

Great Egret

Found throughout North and South America, great egrets can live near either fresh or salt water where they feed in wetlands, ponds and tidal flats. Generally fish are their preferred diet but they also consume amphibians, reptiles, and mice. They nest in trees near water, are monogamous, and both parents care for the eggs. With nearly a 40 inch length and an almost 5 foot wingspan, the name "great egret" seems most appropriate.

Having beautiful, showy plumage, made great egrets very popular with the 19th century, North American, ladies fashion industry. Hunted by plume seekers, their population shrunk by 95%. Over the last century, they were awarded legal protection thanks to efforts by conservation groups including the National Audubon Society. The great egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society and the birds' population has substantially increased due to conservation efforts.

Great Egret


Sometimes mistaken for the monarch, this orange and black butterfly sports a different wing pattern. Its block-like pattern inspired the name fritillary which comes from the Latin word fritillus meaning chessboard. Also called silverspots due to the metallic markings on the wing undersides, the patterned wings may serve as camouflage when the fritillary rests in places of dappled sun. Fritillary caterpillars eat violets while the adults dine on nectar from various native plants like mint, butterfly weed and milkweed.

Painted Lady

Also known as the thistle butterfly, both larvae and adults feed on thistles. This species has a third name, the cosmopolitan, as it is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world. Found everywhere except Australia and Antarctica, this species with a 2-3 inch wing span also feeds on milkweed and red clover.

Painted Lady
Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail

With a wing span of 3-4 inches, this lovely species resides in woodlands near streams, and in canyons and parks throughout western North America from British Columbia to Baja, CA. The caterpillars dine on cottonwood, aspen and willow leaves, while the adults enjoy nectar from thistles, buckeye and Yerba Santa.


This tiny creature, less than 1/2 inch long, lives for 2-3 years in the wild. There are 5000 different species and most eat plant pests like aphids. Ladybugs, also called lady beetles, are extremely effective agricultural pest destroyers using behaviors like laying their eggs within aphid colonies. The hatched larvae then feed on the pest colony. Besides being brightly-colored, which is a warning to predators not to attack, ladybugs can secrete a fluid from their leg joints that gives them a foul taste.



Unlike honeybees, bumblebees usually nest underground and don't make or store large quantities of honey. There are 49 species in the U.S. and they are important pollinators in most of North America. Bumblebees have a short, medium or long proboscis which separates them into one of three classes. Proboscis variation allows different species of bees to harvest from flowers of various sizes and shapes. This factor along with the bumblebee's behavior of buzzing flowers to collect pollen, make this bee a very effective pollinator. Bumblebees create the buzzing by vibrating their wing muscles. That shakes pollen grains loose from plants like tomatoes whose flowers don't produce nectar.


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