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Cry of the Kitten

The pleasant aroma of white sage, black sage, and California sagebrush (“cowboy cologne”) defines our endangered coastal sage scrub ecosystems. But it’s not just the smells you’ll remember. The cry of a wheezy kitten is a sound you’ll learn to recognize from our beloved California gnatcatcher. While these endangered birds definitely aren’t felines, they sure have something to cry about. Urban sprawl has destroyed most of their unique habitat in southern California and has divided many of the local populations. Genetic diversity—which allows the species to evolve and adapt to its changing environment—has declined steeply in these isolated populations.

Since habitat loss continues to pose a threat, a federal judge recently upheld a decision to maintain their protection on the Endangered Species List. A group of developers and industry groups attempted to challenge the songbird’s status, but the court dismissed the case in July of 2019. With these protections still in place, The Escondido Creek Conservancy can continue to prioritize land acquisitions in areas that are contiguous and provide links to other preserved or open-space lands—especially in the core habitat of the gnatcatcher. When these links are connected in perpetuity, we can assure that the California gnatcatcher can survive continued changes in climate and their surrounding environment.

Title photo by: Greg Lyon