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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Ponderosa Pine Savanna

Air Date: Week of

The Cassin’s Finch is right at home in a Ponderosa pine savanna. (Photo: © Tom Munson)

The unique ecology of the ponderosa pine savanna, which covers much of the desert Southwest, has been shaped in large part by fire. BirdNote’s Mary McCann has more about the birds that call this landscape home.


CURWOOD: Birders love the Sky Islands, where it’s one-stop shopping for both tropical and temperate birds, and BirdNote’s Mary McCann has more about the birds that call this landscape home, where fire can be a friend.

Ponderosa Pine Savanna

[Western Meadowlark song]
We’re in a Ponderosa pine savanna.

A mountainside in Arizona’s Sky Islands shows a Ponderosa pine savanna, the result of a fire from several years prior. (Photo: Katja Schulz, Flickr CC BY 2.0)

[Western Meadowlark song]
Tall pines with bark the reddish-brown of terra cotta dot an open, grassy landscape flecked with blue and yellow wildflowers. The warm air is fragrant with the spicy scent of resin. Dry pine needles crunch beneath your feet.
[W. Bluebird calls]
A Western Bluebird flits from a gnarly branch, as a Cassin’s Finch belts out a rapid song.
[Cassin’s Finch song]
The trees here grow singly or in small stands, making it easy to walk through and admire this Western landscape. Upslope, the pines become denser, mixing with firs. Downhill, the trees give way to an open grassland, where a Western Meadowlark sings.
[Western Meadowlark song]

The Western Meadowlark favors the open grassland of a Ponderosa pine savanna. (Photo: © Gregg Thompson)

The open structure of this savanna, found on mountain slopes from the Rockies to the Cascades, results from recurring natural fires. Fast-moving blazes sweep through, burning the low vegetation but sparing the larger trees, which are protected by very thick bark.
After a fire, grass and wildflowers re-grow quickly, helping ensure that the meadowlark’s song will continue to ring across the hillside.
[Western Meadowlark song]
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Sounds of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Western Meadowlark: 23045 recorded by W.R. Fish; 106608 by R.S. Little and 137513 by G. Vyn; Western Bluebird 44896 by G.A. Keller; Cassin’s Finch 50197 and Pygmy Nuthatch 119403 by G.A.Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2005-2017 Tune In to Nature.org May 2017/2019 Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# savanna-01-2012-05-11 savanna-01

CURWOOD: For pictures, head on over to our website, LOE.org.



Learn more on the BirdNote® website


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