Many animal species in the chaparral, especially birds, are highly territorial - meaning they establish a home/breeding location and defend it from competitors (for resources and mates).
For example, the little Wrentit, shown in the image above, defends its 1 to 1 1/2-acre territory throughout its lifespan (up to 10 years or more). The species forms a pair bond for life. The definitive, and wonderfully written description of the Wrentit's energetic life is Mary Erickson's, Territory, Annual Cycle, and Numbers in a Population of Wren-tits (Chamaea fasciata), written in 1938.
The Five Essentials
Although many species travel over and through the chaparral, only a few call it home year-round. Here are the five basic chaparral birds including year-round residents and those that make extended visits.
1. Wrentit (observed mostly by call) - and the essential Mary Erickson paper on the Wrentit (conclusion).
We have a soft spot in our hearts for the little Burrowing Owl, even though it is not a chaparral species.They can live in open sage scrub habitat, so we will let that count. We successfully went to court to save a colony of these birds in the open scrubland of Otay Mesa in San Diego County. Please visit our special owl page on these very special creatures.
Chaparral Plants - The Chaparral's Essential Six Shrubs
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos species). In this case, big-berry manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca).
Ceanothus species. This is Ramona lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus).
Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum). The most common shrub in the chaparral and California, west of the Sierra Nevada.
Scrub oak species. Here is the coastal version, Nuttall's scrub oak (Quercus dumosa).
Silk-tassel bush. This is Garrya flavescens. Another common species
is Garrya veatchii.
The Essential 64 Plants and Animals of Southern California Chaparral is a list from our book Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California. The 64 species in this list are the most likely species you will see most of the time while taking a walk through the chaparral. Download, print, and check 'em off!
There are several excellent online plant ID sources for California native plants found in the chaparral. Here are a few:
"If you are interested in identifying plants of Southern California, one has to be very careful about websites or guidebooks created outside the region, since the species are very likely to be different, even though they look the same. For example, this webpage is a wonderful site for identifying the common yellow wildflowers in the San Francisco Bay area, but can easily lead one astray for identifying the ones in Southern California. If you try to identify one of our several yellow Mariposa lilies in Southern California using that webpage, you’d erroneously think the identification was Calochortus luteus, which is confined to northern California and the northern Channel Islands.
Another example is the five species of "purple nightshade" in California, whose flowers all look very similar. In the Santa Monica Mountains area, the species is Solanum xanti. At the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County, and in San Diego County, the species is Solanum parishii, Parish's purple nightshade.
The latter example shows that even plant guides created within Southern California can lead you astray if you don’t use one local to your subarea. For example, you cannot reliably identify most species at the Santa Rosa Plateau by using a plant list or flower book from somewhere else, such as the Santa Monica Mountains. The "look-alike" species such as the purple nightshades will give you incorrect identifications. Only a small number of species are in common between two places. Of course, those may be among the commonest species in each place, so using a picture book from elsewhere may help to identify the most common species. The closer the other area, the more matches there will be."
The mammal population of California chaparral has changed considerably since humans arrived on the scene. Once dominated by such predators as the California grizzly bear and the jaguar, the apex predator in the chaparral today is the cougar.
James Capen Adams, aka Grizzly Adams, roamed California in the 1800s with his California grizzly bear, Ben Franklin. Photo from T.H. Hittell in The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California.
Cougar. Photo: Mike McCain.
Bobcat. Photo: B. Corsi.
The ubiquitous wood rat. Photo: Scott Tremor.
The brush rabbit, relaxed!
The pervasive, adaptable coyote.
Although there are no confirmed records of the gray wolf in southern California, the species did roam the open forests and shrublands in the northern part of the state. The gray wolf was extinct in the state until one young male named OR-7 crossed the Oregon border into California with the potential of re-populating the region. In order to protect this lone wolf, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf as an endangered species in California on June 4, 2014.
One of the most beautiful moths on earth lives in the chaparral. The ceanothus silk moth (Hyalophora euryalus). Photo: Kirby Wolfe.
The tarantula hawk wasp (Pepsis species) hunts down a tarantula to stun and carry down its burrow to feed its larval young.
Photo: Bill Howell.
The spittle bug adult (Aphrophora species) emerges from its pupa. This is the little creature that forms a protective foamy mass around itself as it sucks on a plant's fluids. Often found on California sagebrush (Artemisia Californica). Photo: Cristina Sandoval.