Breeding Birds

Woodcock Eggs, Stephen Packard, April 2015

Woodcock Eggs, April 2015

Two somewhat distinct groups of birds breed in the Somme preserves—those of savanna-shrublands and those of oak woodlands. Some people refer Somme Prairie Grove or Somme Prairie Nature Preserve as a “prairie” because so many prairie plants thrive here, but the birds are the proof that they are something else.

No bobolink or meadowlark or short-eared owl or any of the other classic prairie birds breed here, nor will they ever. Those species can’t abide woody plants. They need tens or hundreds of acres without trees—just flowers and grass. Clearly for the birds, this is not a prairie.

But an even rarer kind of ecosystem, the savanna, has many characteristic birds (and plants, butterflies and others) that are indeed found here. Most of Somme Prairie Grove is a savanna.

Savanna species

Savanna birds breed where prairie-like grasslands have a few trees per acre. Some of the savanna birds that breed at Somme Prairie Grove regularly include:

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Woodcock
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Yellow-shafted Flicker
  • Goldfinch
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Willow Flycatcher

Shrubland species

Some species breed in densely shrubby areas within savanna or prairie. Some shrubland birds that breed here regularly include:

  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Brown Thrasher
  • House Wren
  • Gray Catbird
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Song Sparrow

Birds that don’t breed here every year but can sometimes be found nesting in the savannas and shrublands here include:

  • Black-billed Cuckoo
  • Sparrow Hawk
  • Tree Swallow
  • Field Sparrow

Woodland species

The open oak woodlands support different birds than do denser forests. Some of the birds that breed here that are typical of the open woodland (and can be found in the savanna as well) include:

  • Crested Flycatcher
  • Wood Pewee
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Open woodland birds that sometimes breed here include:

  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Scarlet Tanager

Other birds

Other species that breed here regularly that are not especially representative of these habitats include:

  • Mallard (any open area near water)
  • Great Horned Owl (nests in trees; often hunts in open areas)
  • Grackle (wetlands or any open area)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (wetlands or any open area)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (any open area – a nest parasite)
  • Red-eyed Vireo (forests or woodlands)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (forests or woodlands)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (forests, woodlands or savanna)
  • Blue Jay (forests, woodlands or savanna)

Two species that have sometimes raised their babies in the wetlands here:

  • Wood Duck
  • Virginia Rail