The Klamath Mountains are home to vast populations of bird species. This is due to diverse habitats including riparian corridors, coniferous forests, oak woodlands, chaparral, meadows, and rocky cliffs. Over 350 bird species call the Klamath Mountains home for some portion of their life. Many of the bird species found in the Klamath Mountains are also found in other locations across the western United States but it is rare to find as many species residing in such close proximity to each other.
The unique climate of the Klamath Mountains provides a rare opportunity for birds of different habitat types to cross paths. This is observed with Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleria ontalis), a subspecies that prefers a humid coastal forest habitat, and the white-headed woodpecker (Leuconotopicus albolarvatus), a species that requires higher elevation and drier pine forests. They are both found in the Klamath Mountains.
There are both long and short-distance migrations that occur here. In a study done in 2017, it was revealed that some migrant bird species, traveling long-distances, will first go inland where adults will molt their body and flight feathers before beginning their southward migrations to the tropics. This process is referred to as elevation molt migration. In this study orange-crowned warblers (Oreothlypsis celata) moved higher in elevation after breeding and Audubon’s yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronate auduboni) moved further inland to begin molting after breeding. The orange-crowned warblers traveled to an elevation of 1,600 feet to breed and traveled to 4,900 feet to molt. These movements to more elevated areas show how certain birds follow available food to their advantage. There are food sources in the more elevated locations that contain the nutrients necessary for them to complete their molting process and migrations so they go there to fill up on nutrient-rich food before continuing their journeys.
Habitats In the Klamath Mountains
The Klamath Mountains represent a remarkable area, an intersection of a wide range of bird species, and a diverse array of different habitats for them to call home. In the Klamath Mountains, the bird communities of the humid coastal rainforests, the inland bird species of the arid west, and the birds who prefer the cool climate of the high mountains can live happily in the same region. The region’s flora and fauna are strongly influenced by a variety of sharp and soft gradients in temperature, elevation, seasonality, aridity, soil types, and geology. The birds are all greatly affected by these changes as well. The effects of these factors on the birds have resulted in an unusual melding of bird groups from adjoining bioregions.
Oak Woodlands: Biodiversity Hotspot in the Klamath Mountains
The oak woodlands account for a large portion of the biodiversity throughout the Klamath Mountains and western North America. Located in the lower to mid-elevations, the oak woodlands are rich in flowers, birds, wildlife, and oak species. White oaks (Quercus garryana) are found along river benches, tanoaks (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) require a slightly higher elevation and grow above the white oak, the huckleberry oaks (Q. vaccinifolia) are found in the montane chaparral. This is only a few speci! The habitats of the oak woodlands are also a crucial component in many migrating birds’ journeys. Species like warblers, flycatchers, and hummingbirds rely on the floral diversity of the areas to acquire their necessary nutrients.