Wildlife in Barron Park neighborhood of Palo Alto CA
The below listing are of animals seen in the neighborhood by
the people who have contributed to this page.
Currently, it is heavily biased toward the Matadero Creek corridor.
Animals listed in small font
(this is small font)
are ones known to be present
in the greater Palo Alto (sometimes SF Bay) area,
but not (yet?) identified as inhabiting Barron Park.
To contribute to this list (additions and corrections),
send e-mail to the address listed at
the bottom of this page.
- Herons, Egrets
- Hawks, Kites, Falcons
- Tyrant Flycatchers
- Jays, Crows, Ravens
- Chickadees, Titmice, Bushtits
- Mockingbirds, Thrashers
- Thrushes, Bluebirds
- Blackbirds, Orioles
- Grosbeaks, Finches, Towhees, Sparrows, Buntings, Juncos
- Amphibians (Frogs, Salamanders, Newts)
- bottom of page
Local telephone numbers are included (where known and available)
in addition to links in case you are working from hard copy
or the organization's web page is unreachable.
The organization and naming scheme of this list will roughly follow that of
Peterson's A Field Guide to Western Birds,
which was selected because it is the most popular (= widely used) field guide.
This guide was also used as one of the major sources of the following information.
In the below listing,
notice how many of these birds favor riparian habitats
(riparian: along creeks, rivers, ponds, ...),
and how many favor the mature oak and redwoods
that can be found in our neighborhood.
Birds that have nesting requirements that can be helped by residents
are listed (work-in-progress).
Food: fish, frogs, other aquatic animals; occasionally small rodents (eg, mice), insects
Unlikely to nest in the neighborhood --
they nest in large colonies.
Often seen leaving toward baylands in late afternoon.
Frequent visitors (feeding)
to the Barron Creek sendiment/settlement basin and Matadero Creek.
One colony is in the palm trees at the Palo Alto Duck Pond
Both Common/Great and Snowy Egrets
have been seen frequently
where the bike path crosses Matadero Creek.
They work the channel below the bridge and
the bend in the stream above the bridge
(they also work the stream up from there,
but are not visible from the park).
On a typical day, one or both visits in early morning
and again in late afternoon (but typically one at a time).
look for one of them perched near the top of the dead tree
downstream of the bridge.
- Common Egret, Great Egret (Casmerodius albus)
yellow or orange bill, black legs and feet.
- Snowy Egret (Leucophoyx thula)
Much smaller than Common Egret.
Black bill and legs, and yellow/golden feet:
feet are "un-missable" feature.
Protect the tree:
the city has been told that this dead tree is an important perch,
and has agreed to not cut it down (unless it becomes a hazard).
However, such knowledge may get lost in some future
reorganization or personnel change.
if you see a crew that looks like they are going to cut down the tree,
tell them of this agreement, have them double-check with city hall,
try to personally inform a relevant BPA person so that
we can immediately contact city staff about the situation.
- Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Not known to nest in neighborhood
(often seen leaving toward bay in late afternoon),
but frequent visitor (feeding)
to Matadero Creek and
to the Barron Creek sendiment/settlement basin.
They are occasionally seen on Strawberry Hill
(the triangle behind the Gunn HS athletic fields)
and sometimes in Bol Park itself.
When they are working the fields, they are hunting for smaller burrowing animals
(mice, voles, ground squirrels, ...).
When on the banks of a creek or pond,
they may be resting or
hunting frogs, snakes, mice, and other animals that live in that moist zone.
- Green Heron
Not known to nest in neighborhood,
but frequent visitor (feeding)
to Matadero Creek and
to the Barron Creek sendiment/settlement basin.
- Black-crowned Night-Heron
Realize that these are called Night-Herons because they are most active at night.
Not known to nest in neighborhood,
but frequent visitors (feeding)
to Matadero Creek and have been seen frequently in the grassy area of Bol Park itself.
Reported to frequently roost in trees along the creek in the 800 block of Barron (2007-2012)
and at the Creekside Inn (2012).
For Bol Park, they are most often seen after the irrigation sprinklers have run,
presumably hunting for worms that have surfaced.
In summer 2013, I found the severed wing and other feathers of one of these herons
that had been killed by some predator—my first guess would be a bobcat
that is known to frequent the nearby Roble Ridge area
(one of the foxes would be a very distant second).
Call is a Wok
which bird books describe as
but sounds me more like something between a crow and a duck's quack
(but what do I know).
- Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)
Food: Aquatic plants, seeds, grass, small aquatic animals, insects, snails
Multiple pairs have been observed in Matadero Creek
(3 pairs is most common estimate),
and there are typically many in the Barron Creek Sediment Basin
(behind Gunn High School) and in the marshy area just upstream.
- Hooded Merganser: small flock routinely seen
Differentiator (from Bufflehead below): White breast, reddish underside;
females have reddish-brown crest (vs no noticeable crest)
- Other species: spotted from time to time in Sediment Basin.
- Bufflehead: small flock routinely seen
Note: Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers are often present at the same time.
There have been instances of debates over correct identification
that resulted from people simply looking at different individuals.
Differentiator (from Hooded Merganser): White underside (belly, not just breast)
- Wood Duck (curious if it is nesting locally).
Also seen in Matadero Creek at the Creekside Inn
Hawks, Kites, Falcons
- Red-shouldered Hawk (soaring hawk) (Buteo lineatus)
Habitat: broken woodlands, primarily lowland rivers.
Food: small mammals (ground squirrels, rabbits, rats, mice, ...), reptiles, large insects (eg grasshoppers); occasionally small birds
Formerly had long-term nesting pair in tree in Donkey pasture
(next to Matadero Creek in Bol Park),
but they have not returned since the construction project
for the creek bypass (flood-control).
How to differentiate from red-tailed hawks (when soaring):
tail is banded (instead of solid)
and there are translucent "windows" in the wings.
Our hawks often are seen soaring very high in the sky,
to the point where they appear very small.
I don't find any reference to this in bird books, so it
may be just our individual hawks.
The Red-tailed Hawks that visit our neighborhood tend to
fly much lower: typically less than 40-50 feet above the
tree tops, and often close to tree-top level.
- Red-tailed Hawk (soaring hawk) (Buteo jamaicensis)
Habitat: open country, woodlands, ...
Food: similar to Red-shouldered Hawk
Most common soaring hawk.
Seen widely throughout the rest of Palo Alto and rest of area.
Occasionally visits neighborhood, but not known to nest here.
This is the much more common cousin of the Red-shouldered Hawk --
in the census at Hawk Hill (on the Marin headlands),
almost 25 times more common.
- Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
California Species of Concern
Habitat: broken woodlands, canyon, river groves.
Food: small birds, some small mammals
Non-soaring; typically seen flying below the level of the
tree tops, with several quick beats of the wing and then
a short glide. Ambush hunter - needs thick groves.
Distinguished from the soaring hawks by long narrow tail,
and short, rounded wings.
Females noticeably larger than males.
If you hear the song birds suddenly go silent,
look towards the silence and you may see this hawk.
Cooper's Hawks commonly nest in a cluster of trees,
rotating sites in different trees,
returning to a nest after 3-4 years.
My conjecture is that
this may be to allow time and weather to sanitize the nest:
Because Cooper's Hawks prey on other birds,
there is a much smaller "species barrier"
(for parasites, germs and other infections)
between them and their prey
than if their prey was insects, reptiles or even mammals.
We have long had a nesting pair in the neighborhood.
Positive evidence of health of neighborhood environment:
"species of special concern" - see
(same as above).
Since 1992, a pair has been nesting in the Roble Ridge section.
The property owner is quite pleased to have them as co-tenants.
They have been consistently successful in raising broods:
at least 2 juveniles have been seen each year.
If you stand in Bol Park across from Laguna Court,
you may well see them coming and going,
but you have to look quickly --
they are typically moving fast at roughly
the level of the tops of the street trees.
Do NOT try to approach the nest:
please respect the privacy of both the homeowners and the birds.
In 2001 and 2002, a pair has been nesting on Matadero Avenue
between Tippawingo and Julie Court.
Prior to 2001, the pair on Roble Ridge was frequently observed
hunting along Matadero Creek
as far down as Tippawingo, and as far away from the creek
One of the members of this pair may
an offspring of the Roble Ridge pair.
In 2003 and 2004 nesting seasons,
the specific nesting site was not located,
Cooper's Hawks are frequently observed hunting in the area,
and based on that pattern, the nest is probably in or near
There may be additional pairs in the neighborhood,
based upon some sightings that were not consistent with
the known nesting site (carrying food in wrong direction).
I have also seen Cooper's Hawks crossing El Camino along
the creek alignment and down on Park Blvd near the creek.
They may or may not be one of the above pairs.
This species is being increasingly spotted in suburban areas,
suggested that it has adapted to these circumstances
(previously it seemed to shy away from even sparsely
I have several times seen a Cooper's Hawk hunting in
the California Avenue shopping district,
flying and perching less than 10 feet above
people on the sidewalks.
Note: A juvenile has brown coloration
above instead of the blue-gray of the adult.
Starting in late July and extending through at least September,
you can see them practicing flying,
especially swooping and darting through trees.
On several occasions, juveniles have been spotted practicing
immediately over Matadero Creek,
darting back and forth between the trees lining the sides of
In late July and early August, there is a lot of calling between
the parents and the juveniles, making them easier to locate.
In August and September, you may also see the juveniles
practicing their swooping and darting between trees.
- Sharp-shinned Hawk
Habitat: forest, thickets
Smaller version of the Cooper's Hawk.
So close in appearance as to be indistinguishable in the field.
Size is also a uncertain indicator since a large
Sharp-shinned Hawk (female) is about the same
size as a small Cooper's Hawk (male).
- American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Habitat: Open country, prairies, deserts, wooded streams, farmland, cities
Nest: cavity in isolated tree, cliff, building, ...
Food: large insects, small mammals; occasionally small birds
Commonly seen sitting on fence below The Dish on I-280.
The open field in Bol Park should be a suitable habitat,
or could become one.
They have been spotted on occasion in Bol Park,
but not often enough to lead me to believe that they are resident.
- White-tailed Kite, (formerly Black-shouldered Kite) (Elanus leucurus)
Habitat: open foothills, river valleys, marshes
Food: small mammals, reptiles, large insects
In 2003-2004 and ...: end of Manzana Lane
In 2000, a pair is nesting within sight of the Bol Park bike path.
Has been seen for periods of several weeks along Matadero Creek
in the winter (mid-1990's).
After breeding season, they gather in roosts in flocks that can exceed 100
and hunt from there.
A flock of at least 25 was seen over Bol Park and the fields behind Gunn H.S.
in June 2012.
Identification: Falcon-shaped winges, but also gives
impression of a small gull.
White underneath (belly, tail, inner wings) with outer portion
of wings darker.
Sometimes hovers (similar to Kestrel or Marsh Hawk),
often at greater altitude (e.g., tree top level).
The name kite is evocative of their buoyancy
In the census at Hawk Hill (on the Marin headlands),
Peregrine Falcons were slightly more common than Kites.
- Other Resources (Raptors)
- Mourning Dove (Zenaidura macroura)
Food: seeds, fruit, insects
- Western Screech Owl
Nest: tree cavity such as a woodpecker hole
Heard routinely in Barron Park, especially along Matadero Creek.
Heard and seen in Bol Park with such frequency
that there is almost certainly a nesting pair nearby
(probably in one of the oaks along the creek).
- Barn Owl
Nest: in barn/belfrey, hollow tree, cave or hole in bank.
Food: rodents, reptiles, birds, large insects
I routinely hear the call of the Barn Owl
(often several nights a week) - I live near Matadero Creek.
Reports of long-term nest in a palm tree near Kendall Ave.
When transiting the regional bike path well after sunset,
I have seen them in the Strawberry Hill area (the triangle behind the Gunn HS athletic fields).
They perch on top of the lightpoles, making them hard to see except when they fly.
I haven't seen them there in summer and fall—probably because the hill doesn't have
adequate vegetation to support the owl's prey.
On a bright summer night, find a tree with a lot of
activity by mice or rats and wait (and wait).
If you are lucky, one will come and
you will probably hear it land on the tree.
If you look in that direction, you may see it fly away
(outlined against the sky).
Great Horned Owl:
Nest: takes over nest of squirrel or hawk, typically
near the trunk of a tree with dense foliage,
Food: primarily rodents (mice, rats, rabbits), and
roosting birds, but also lizards and insects.
Prey can be several times size of itself:
they have been know to kill large geese.
Also takes bobcat cubs, coyote pups, ...
The only natural predator of skunks.
Also preys on house cats
(one of its common names is the Cat Owl)
and probably small dogs.
Not a species that we plan to encourage --
Barn Owls are good substitute.
You know when this owl has taken up residence in your area.
Starting in late fall (often just in time for Halloween),
they start hooting loudly to announce their territory
(to other owls).
I have not heard reports of this,
nor heard it myself
(I often work through late night into early morning hours
and would have heard such calls based upon what else I hear).
Alleged sightings: Several people have reported seeing
a Great Horned Owl repeatedly along Matadero Creek,
but the basis of the identification was
"Too large to be a Barn Owl."
This is inadequate: Humans do poorly at judging size against
the night sky, and the size difference of the two species
is well within the range of expected errors.
Messages from an Owl by Max R. Terman.
Available in the Palo Alto Library.
This book has stellar reviews which I (Doug Moran) think are
overblown - I would rate it as a very good and interesting
book, but not a great one.
- At various times, knowledgeable people have heard an owl hooting
(Barn Owls have a different call),
but have been unsure as to the likely species.
Since these reports are very intermittent,
it is likely that it is a homeless/transient owl
looking for a suitable territory.
- Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owls are very unlikely to take up residence in Bol Park.
They are residents of the prairie (def: treeless grassland)
that usurp a burrow from a ground squirrel (which Bol Park as in abundance)
or gopher or prairie dog.
They hunt the grassland for small mice and large insects
(especially Jerusalem crickets).
The problem with Bol Park as habitat for them is the trees:
trees provide cover for their predators
(including Cooper's Hawks and Redtailed Hawks).
Santa Clara County has one of the larger populations of Burrowing Owls
left in California (although this population is rapidly disappearing).
Their prime habitat is right along the bay.
A pair of owls colonized one of the dirt mounds in Bixby Park
(the former Palo Alto landfill) that had been placed there
as part of the artistic enhancements of the park.
They have not been found at elevations above 200 feet,
and they have not been found in the Oak Savannah/Grassland
habitat that is so common away from the bay:
apparently even scattered trees create too dangerous an environment
(note: oak savannah is much favored by Red-tailed Hawks).
- Other Resources (Owls)
Food: flower nectar, small insects, spiders
- Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
These hummingbirds are resident the year round,
and need help with food in the fall and winter.
Ignore the advice in books that tell you to discontinue feeding in
the fall to
avoid encouraging them to delay migrating
-- this advice originates in the northeastern US,
where it is incorrect, but generally not harmful
(much research has established that birds migrate based on cues
other than food supply).
Will perch in tree near a feeder and drive off other hummingbirds.
If you put out multiple feeders, you need to place them
not just out of sight of each other,
but out of sight of the positions the resident hummingbird uses
to watch over his feeder
(you will probably have to experiment).
- Since local hummingbirds are so highly territorial,
the feeder will be used by only one bird at a time
and only a few total.
Hence you do not need large storage capacity
(the extra will go bad) or multiple feeding ports.
- Feeders with perches are better.
Ones without perches produce better pictures of the
but are much worse for the hummingbird because it has
to expend energy hovering.
If there is a perch, the hummer will drink its fill;
If it has to hover to feed, it will drink,
fly off to a perch to rest before returning for more.
- The most recommended hummingbird feeder is
the HummZinger manufactured by
Aspects, Inc of
Warren Rhode Island.
It has becoming increasingly hard to find in local stores:
Wild Birds Unlimited
seems to carry it, under the name
as the WBU Hummingbird Feeder.
The WBU web site lists only the 6-port (16oz) model,
but I have continued to find the 3-port (8oz) model
in their stores.
Price for the 3-port model: $15-16 (fall 2001)
Accessories: Get a "port brush"
(price about $2) for cleaning the feeder ports --
it greatly simplifies the task.
Accessories: The HumZinger has a built-in
ant barrier, but I find that falling leaves create bridges
in short order, so I place a second (larger) ant barrier
above the feeder.
- Droll Yankee
makes a feeder - the LF-2 Little Flyer 2 - that is very
similar in appearance and apparent functionality to the
I first saw it in stores in 2005.
List price is about $20 and it includes a brush for
cleaning the feeder ports.
- Allen's Hummingbird
- Rufous Hummingbird
- Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
Habitat: streams, rivers
Nest: burrow in riverbank
Food: small fish; occasionally insects
Has been seen from routinely along Matadero Creek
at the bridge on the bike path (in Bol Park)
and occasionally at the Matadero Avenue bridge
and heard at various places in between.
Its call is distinctive and is often described as raucous,
but it tends to sit quietly on a branch, wire or similar perch,
so it can be easily overlooked.
Nest: hole in tree
(occasionally a birdhouse; common conjecture is that they have
strong perference for holes that they have excavated themselves)
Food: mainly tree-boring insects; some berries, acorns, seeds, sap
- Nuttalls' Woodpecker (Dendrocopos nuttallii )
Habitat: wooded canyons and foothills, river woods, groves, orchards
(This is the most common local woodpecker)
- Hairy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos villosus)
Habitat: woodlands, river grove
Distinguishing from Nuttall's: Its back is white; Nuttall's is barred.
- Downy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos pubescens)
same markings as Hairy Woodpecker, but much smaller
- Acorn Woodpecker
Stores acorns in bark of trees
- Red/Yellow/hybrid -shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus/cafer)
Food: mainly flying insects; some fruit, reptiles, ...
- Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Habitat: shady streams, walled canyons, farmyards, towns; near water
Nest: ledge, bridge, or building near water
- Say's Phoebe
- Western Flycatcher (Empidonax difficulis)
Habitat: Must have shade and water: moist woods, mixed or conifer forests, canyons, groves.
Nest: made of moss and rootlets, on a ledge, log, tree trunk, or steep bank
Identification: yellow on belly extends up and around throat.
Most likely found where there is a short "commute"
between food and home (the children to be fed).
For example, where the creek borders on open fields
(which have many flying insects).
- Olive-sided Flycatcher
- Willow Flycatcher
- Ash-throated Flycatcher
- Western Wood-Pewee
- Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
Most easily seen in the Strawberry Hill section of Bol Park
(an open field - the obvious environment for swallows)
- Tree Swallow
- Barn Swallow
- Bank Swallow
- Clift Swallow
- Violet-green Swallow
- Northern Rough-winded Swallow
Jays, Crows, Ravens
Food: omnivorous, including the eggs and young of other birds
- Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
The common jay of our area.
Caches acorns in many places,
notably under shakes on roofs and under house eaves.
Habitat: Foothills, oaks, streams woodlands, ...
- Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Identification: only jay west of the Rockies with a crest.
Habitat: Conifer and pine-oak forests.
Generally found in denser, cooler forests than Scrub Jays
(hence often at higher elevations).
However, in the late 1990's, Steller's Jays were increasingly
observed on the valley floor.
They seem to be not just transients but expanding their range.
Local: at least one pair of adults has been observed along
(just west of the bridge between Tippawingo and Josina)
in spring, summer and fall,
suggesting that they are nesting here.
First sightings in 2000, continuing into 2003
(last update of this entry - 7/03).
- Common Crow, American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
- Common Raven (Corvus corax)
- Dead Crows, Ravens, Jays, Magpies: these birds are especially
sensitive to the West Nile virus
(highly publicized outbreaks in the New York City area starting
in 1999; moving west; detected in Iowa in 2001).
Do not touch
Report immediately - carcass needs to be less that 24 hours
old for effective analysis.
- San Mateo County: Mosquito Abatement District: 650-344-8592
- Other California: California Dept of Health Services: 877-WNV-BIRD
Chickadees, Titmice, Bushtits
Food: insects, seeds, acorn masts, berries
Nest: hole, crevice, cranny, birdhouse
Food: insects, spiders
- Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
This is a Federal Species of Concern
- Wrens are highly territorial.
If you find the hole of a birdhouse plugged (with twigs and straw),
the likely culprit is a wren whose nest is nearby and
is seeking to discourage competitors from moving in.
Food: insects, fruit
- California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum)
Often seen scratching through leaves on the ground,
searching for insects, grubs, ...
- Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Food: insects, worms, snails, berries, fruits
- American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Future**: young robins spend the better part of a day on the ground
as the last part of learning to fly.
Trying to putting them back into nest is useless -
they will just fly down again,
and you may injure them trying to catch them.
**What advice to give to concerned people: eg persuade them to move
to cover, keep cat and dog away (how?)
- Hermit Thrush
- Swainson's Thrush
- Varied Thrush
- Western Bluebird:
- Various locations along Matadero Creek—cavity nesters in the old trees along the creek
- Bol Park: occasionally
- Gunn High School fields, both the athletic fields and Strawberry Hill: often seen perching on the fences
- Barron Park Elementary School fields and yards on the opposite side of Matadero Creek
- in Arastradero Preserve (birdhouse project)
- North American Bluebird Society
- California Bluebrid Recovery Program
- Southern California Bluebird Club
- Sialis (Sialis sialis = Eastern Bluebird) : Helping Bluebirds and Other Small Cavity Nesters Survive and Thrive
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Golden-crowned Kinglet
Food: berries, insects
- Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedronum)
Habitat: oak scrub
Food: mainly insects
- Solitary Vireo
- Hutton's Vireo
- Warbling Vireo
Food: mainly insects
- Orange-crowned Warbler
- Nashville Warbler
- Yellow Warbler
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Black-throated Gray Warbler
- Townsend's Warbler
- Hermit Warbler
- MacGillivray's Warbler
- Wilson's Warbler
- Common Yellowthroat
- Red-winged Blackbird
Routinely nests in reeds in the Barron Creek sendiment basin
(near Gunn High School), in both the lower and upper sections.
- Tricolored Blackbird
- Brewer's Blackbird
- Yellow-headed Blackbird
- Western Meadowlark
- Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
Resident in Ilima Court in summer 2004.
- Oriole indeterminate
Barron Ave near Cass, summer 2004: "Brilliant yellow birds [feeding] in wild plum tree"
- Northern Oriole
- Brown-headed Cowbird
Grosbeaks, Finches, Towhees, Sparrows, Buntings, Juncos
Food: seeds, insects, small fruits
- American Goldfinch
Habitat: river groves, willows, orchards
- Lesser Goldfinch
- House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
- Purple Finch
- Spotted Towhee (formerly Rufous-sided Towhee) (Pipilo eruthrophthalmus)
- California Towhee, Brown Towhee
- Savannah Sparrow
- Sharp-tailed Sparrow
- Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
- Song Sparrow
- Lincoln's Sparrow
- Swamp Sparrow
- White-throated Sparrow
- Golden-crowned Sparrow
- White-crowned Sparrow
- (English) House Sparrow (a weaver finch)
- Oregon Junco (Junco oreganus)
(in some bird books, classified as the western branch of
Primary a winter visitor, but there are reports of it being
- Black-headed Grosbeak (nesting in 2007)
Habitat: pine-oak forests, mixed forest, tall chaparral, stream-side groves, orchards, parks
- Pine Siskin
- California Quail:
- Populations in steep decline: see
California Quail from UC-Davis.
- As result of sightings of Bobwhite Quail in 2002 (below),
multiple reports of sightings of this quail in Barron Park.
- Can be seen on the Stanford campus.
- Northern Bobwhite Quail (Golinus virginianus)
Not native to California.
Starting in late June 2002,
they have been sighted and heard at multiple locations in
Barron Park: mostly along Matadero Creek, but also near Barron Creek
and Baker Street. Probably a single pair.
From Bill Bousman who handles rare bird sightings for the
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society:
"There are infrequent reports of Northern Bobwhite from
widely scattered areas of Santa Clara County.
This eastern species is nonmigratory and a natural occurrence
is seemingly impossible.
On the other hand this species is widely used by hunters for training
their dogs. Training birds may escape while they are being raised to
a suitable age or when they are no longer needed for training.
Western Fish & Game departments have made a number of attempts
to introduce this bird as a game species, starting in the 1800s. As
far as I know, all have been unsuccessful."
- Established in Arastradero Preserve.
As for many other species, Matadero Creek provides a "highway" from there into Barron Park.
- 2012: Spotted repeatedly in Matadero Creek near Julie Court
- 2012-06-30: on El Centro near Timlott Lane and La Para
- Parrots (yes, parrots in Palo Alto)
The is at least one established flock of parrots
that reportedly is loosely based on the Stanford campus.
I have heard that there was a south Palo Alto flock
that lost its primary base when the church they were using
as a shelter was remodeled.
This flock visits other areas of Palo Alto from time to time.
In the Barron Park neighborhood, they seem to have a decided
preference for Loquat fruit,
and you may hear them in such trees
(and then see them fly when you approach).
Have not been seen/reported in Barron Park since the late 1990s.
This flock was founded by escaped parrots,
but has been living wild for so long
(and apparently successfully breeding)
that they have to be considered wild birds,
not escaped pets.
- Macaws: more escaped pets. Some may have reverted to wild.
- Toucan: From Bill Hamburgen, in response to e-mail "anyone lose a toucan?"
"I got lots of mail back on this,
some of it quite a lot of fun.
Bottom line seems to be that this toucan has been in the area
for a while, and is not being actively sought by an owner.
I'd suggest we all just settle in and enjoy the company
of yet another interesting BP resident.
If some morning you hear an unusual "awk-awk-awk"
(steady cadence, at about 2 second intervals),
you might want to take a peek at the beast making the noise."
- Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) - Often seen on the Gunn High School
irrigated fields (for example, the football field).
Although thought of as a shorebird,
it is not uncommon for it to forage - and even breed - on lawns,
airports, and other fields.
- Various sea birds (transient)
Various seabirds are commonly seen flying high over the neighborhood
as they move from San Francisco Bay to the Ocean and back.
However, it is not unheard of for some of them to briefly plop down
in our creeks or in the sendiment/settlement basin.
Seeing a White Pelican ((Pelecanus erythrorhynchos))
rise up out of our small creek is quite a sight
(after seeing Great Blue Herons and Egrets which are big themselves).
Some people swear by the WoodCrete line of birdhouses
(manufacturer: Schwegler (Germany)). Alternate spellings: "wood crete" or "wood-concrete"
Instead of being built from wood,
they use concrete with wood chips
mixed in to provide breathe-ability.
These birdhouses are durable (they don't rot like wood does),
and their weight makes them stable in high winds,
and provides "thermal mass"
(they smooth out the daily temperature swings).
Disadvantage: hard to find.
Do not know of any local stores that carry this line,
and know of only two potential mail-order source in the US:
Kinsman Company and
Nature House Catalog
I prefer, and have good experience with, the "predator-proof" models.
Predator control: Not just cats and raccoons - crows and jays actively seek out nestlings as food.
Suggestions on how to position:
- Best to have the hole face away from prevailing wind and storms
(which tend to come from the west or northwest).
- Best to have hole catch morning sun (to help the birds warm up).
- Preferable to have in a location that is shaded from mid-day and
afternoon sun in the summer (so that it doesn't get too hot).
- Advice: face roughly SE on deciduous tree.
Height: different birds prefer different heights.
For example, chickadees prefer the hole to be 6-12 feet high in woodlands,
and higher (10 to ?) feet in yards.
Some woodpecker prefer a minimum of 20 feet.
** To be expanded at some future time**
Bumblebees over-wintering in birdhouses
Advice on Birdhouses for:
Cavity Nesters Recovery Program of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the Audubon Society (SCVAS):
Placing birdhouses for cavity nesters,
and tracking success rates.
Other Resources (Birds, General)
- Ground Squirrel (especially in Bol Park)
Motto: To you we may be vermin, but to the hawks, we are a tasty meal.
- Gray (Tree) Squirrel
- Black (Tree) Squirrel
Some claim that the black tree squirrels are just a color phase
of the Gray Squirrel (a black variation is common among many mammals),
others claim that it is a distinct species introduced to
the area by Stanford (University or family?).
- Flying Squirrels
Known to frequent the redwood trees between 825 and 827 Matadero.
Multiple species in area;
often difficult to distinguish without close examination.
Some colonial, some not.
Feed on insects. Help control mosquitos.
- Pallid bats: "species of special concern"
reported in general area, but no known sightings within the
Barron Park neighborhood
- Western Mastif bats: "species of special concern"
reported in general area, but no known sightings within the
Barron Park neighborhood
- Support Groups and Literature
There are definitely bats living in the neighborhood,
although not in their former numbers.
Bats may be nesting along Matadero Creek near Hoover School.
- Other Resources
- Moles and Shrews
Do not confuse moles and shrews with gophers.
Gophers are destructive to yards;
moles and shrews are largely beneficial
(except for their tunnels producing tracks
in a carefully manicured lawn).
Moles and shrews eat grubs and worms,
and help aerate the soil.
At times, they will eat some tender roots,
but usually in such small quantities
that they do not threaten your landscaping.
Note: gophers are not known to be present in Barron Park,
although they can be found nearby
(for example, in Los Altos Hills).
- Voles (mouse-like rodents)
- Mice, White-footed (native)
Nocturnal, occasionally nest around buildings,
but usually do not "invade" houses.
- California Mouse:
feeds on acorns; nests in trees,
often in the nests of Wood Rats.
- Deer Mouse:
feeds on seeds, nuts, acorns, insects;
nests on ground or in trees.
Suggestion for activity for children:
Pick a quiet summer night and
go outside and listen for rustling in trees.
Use a good flashlight to see if you can locate the mouse from the sound
(similar to what birdwatchers do to find birds --
they listen for a bird's call to determine where to look and
what to look for).
- Dusty-footed Wood Rat (native):
(DFG JPEG picture)
feeds on seeds, acorns, nuts, fruit, green vegetation, fungus;
nests in trees (sometimes on ground).
Rarely nests in buildings.
- Black/Roof Rat (Old World immigrant):
feeds on fruit, snails, ...;
nests in tops of houses (for example, attics), especially in winter.
The Roof Rat is shy, often unobtrusive.
Note: This is not the Brown/Norway Rat (another Old World immigrant)
of urban nightmares.
- Normal urban wildlife
Living with urban wildlife / handling of problem critters:
- Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Starting in 2004, deer have been observed along Matadero Creek
as far down as the Tippawingo/Josina bridge.
In winter, they were routinely observed at dawn on Roble Ridge.
In summer 2004, deer have been observed nightly emerging
from the creek near Barron Park Elementary School,
and several times at Julie Court.
There are also a few scattered sightings away from the creeks,
for example at Laguna and San Jude in early July.
Unknown number of deer: none of these sightings are inconsistent
with it being just a single pair of deer.
There have been sightings of foxes along Matadero Creek east of Laguna and
possible signs of foxes in the open space portion of Bol Park
(hunting for ground squirrels?).
- Grey Fox (Vulpes fulva)
Native, excellent tree climber
Multiple reported sightings in area of Barron Creek sendiment basin (behind Gunn HS)
- Red Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
Non-native: introduced species (from Eastern US)
- Bobcats (Lynx rufus)
Infrequently sightings (but that doesn't mean they aren't present)
Recent reported sightings: 2004-05-15 on Roble Ridge at 11am (unusually late for sightings),
2004-06-06 8-9am: two sightings, first on Hubbartt Ave (just off Arastradero, just east of Gunn HS) at 8am and the second in Bol Park.
When looking for a new territory,
many mammals follow creeks and rivers (as a highway).
From time to time, bobcats have been seen in the neighborhood,
always at night along one of the creeks.
In the early 1980's, one was observed (by multiple reliable people)
near the Creekside Inn
(Matadero Creek near El Camino Real).
Most of the known sightings of bobcats have been in late summer
suggesting that these were young adults searching for a new territory
(when their mother "cuts them loose,"
they have to leave her territory).
Reference books say that the young leave their mother in either
fall or spring.
- Mountain Lions / Cougar / Panther / Puma / Cat-a-mount :
(DFG info: pictures of
No confirmed sightings yet in immediate neighborhood,
but there have been sightings nearby
(near Stanford Dish and at SLAC).
It is not totally inconceivable that a lion could enter the neighborhood,
probably using Matadero Creek as a route to slip past houses
trying to find new territory.
Unfortunately, there is no sign to tell them
"This creek deadends in suburban sprawl".
Pamphlet: Living with California mountain lions
- Mountain Lions in (Palo Alto's) Open Space : recent sightings, recommendations, ...
- Sighting of mountain lion in Palo Alto Baylands (questionable)
from the 1997 January 01 issue
of the Palo Alto Weekly
- 2004: April-May: possible attacks by mountain lion on 2 horses on Stanford lands around I-280
- 2004-05-17: Mountain lion sighted and killed in area around intersection of Middlefield and Embarcadero: many articles - use search engine
- 2004: May-June: additional possible sightings of mountain lions in surrounding areas
- 2004-09-24, 5:40 AM: sighted entering Matadero Creek at Josina.
- 2004-10-20, 12:40 AM: sighted on roof near 988 N. California Avenue (bayward from Louis Road).
- 2005-09-06 1:30pm: Mitchell Park: SJ Mercury News: PAPD Blotter: Unconfirmed report by woman
- 2005-09-08 6pm: Matadero Creek, behind Barron Park School: Unconfirmed report by three children
- Butterflies and Moths
- Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui):
They pass throught this area migrating from their wintering grounds
in the southern deserts.
In the biggest migrations, they can be so numerous as to appear to be clouds tumbling by.
In other significant migrations, they constitute a stream, often passing by at a rate of more than one per second.
UC Irvine .
Significant recent migrations:
Other Resources (Butterflies and Moths)
- Other Significant Ones (there are so many insects, this listing is minimal.
Significant means a species that has become of interest).
- Praying (Preying) Mantis:
- Other Resources (Insects)
- Minnows (**details**)
- (German) Brown Trout
Brown trout fingerlings have been reported in Matadero Creek.
Trout species widely introduced throughout the US.
Can tolerate somewhat warmer water than many native species.
Often out-competes native species.
- Where are the brown trout coming from?
- Is the creek cold enough for native species?
- Can it be made cold enough?
- Can the habitat be enhanced enough to support mature fish?
- Steelhead/Rainbow Trout: not known to be in our segment of creek
Steelhead are Rainbow Trout that live in the ocean,
returning to freshwater to spawn.
It is not known what makes some of this species
stay in fresh water and other migrate to the ocean.
Rainbow trout can be found in the headwaters of most of
the major creeks in the area,
but the steelhead runs have been largely eliminated
(by various changes that prevent them from getting upstream).
San Francisquito Creek still has a steelhead run and
efforts are being made to preserve/enhance it.
- Fish ladder on Los Trancos Creek (tributary of San Francisquito)
- Other Resources (Fish)
- Salmon (in other SF Bay creeks/rivers, but not ours)
- Garter Snake
- Skink, Western
- Lizard, Alligator : common
- Lizard, Sagebrush
- Toad, Western
Amphibians (Frogs, Salamanders, Newts)
- Species Identification Guide: An Online Guide for Amphibians in the United States and Canada from the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. A great resource.
- Tadpoles appear to be numerous in Matadero Creek.
- Red-legged frog: threatened species
(threatened is step prior to endangered).
Found at undisclosed locations in Matadero Creek,
presumably not in Barron Park, but higher up.
Local frog makes 'threatened' list
from the 1996 May 24 issue
of the Palo Alto Weekly.
- Pacific Tree Frog
- Pacific Treefrog USGS listing
- Matadero "Bring Back the Tree Frogs" Creek Project by Jeff Burch, in the Summer 2000 issue of the BPA Newsletter.
- 2003 February: PAFE (Palo Alto Foundation for Education) awarded a grant to Lori Lester, a science teacher at Terman Middle School, for a project to investigate the absence of tadpoles in Matadero Creek near Bol Park.
Native to the eastern and central US, and
has been introduced to this area.
The bullfrog growth cycle requires summer water for tadpoles
(unlike native frogs),
so it has been unable to colonize creeks that go completely dry
in the summer (e.g., Barron Creek).
However, it has been very successful in establishing itself on
creeks such as Matadero which provide even small flows in the summer.
Other frogs are a major portion of its diet.
Undesirable species: widely regarded as
a significant factor in decline of native frogs.
"Where you find native frogs, you don't find bullfrogs.
Where you find bullfrogs, you don't find native frogs."
- Arboreal Salamander : observed on properties near Matadero Creek
- California Slender Salamander : observed on properties near Matadero Creek
- California Tiger Salamander : one confirmed report along Matadero Creek from the late 1990's during a particularly wet and soggy spell (hypothesis: washed down from upstream)
- California Newt:
- Other Resources (Amphibians)
Others of note
Data collected by:
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