Creature Feature

by Ivy Munnerlyn

Great Blue Heron
Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
Wiyot Name: Heluqhiyan

The Great Blue Heron is the largest species of heron in North America, with a wingspan of roughly 2m. They are also a very widespread species, living in a huge variety of habitats all across the continent. As the climate warms, great blue herons are expected to thrive, with very little of their range becoming uninhabitable. In fact, their range is expected to expand North into the upper reaches of Canada and Alaska, making it as far as the Arctic Circle. You’ve probably seen this graceful bird slowly wading through the shallow waters of marshes, flooded fields, roadside ditches, ponds, and seasides. Great blue herons are generalist hunters, and will snack on rodents, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. They use their sharp beaks to stab downward and spear their prey before gobbling it down. They are also generalists when choosing nest sites, and have been known to nest in trees, low shrubs, and on the ground. Females are responsible for creating the large, platform-like nest, and use materials brought to them by the male. If you visit Florida, you may get the opportunity to see a closely related species–the Great White Heron. Where the great blue has dusky blue/gray plumage, the great white is entirely white. Great blue herons are common in Humboldt county–have you seen one?


Townsend’s Chipmunk
Scienti c Name: Tamias townsendii
Wiyot Name: Bushdou’l

The Townsend’s Chipmunk (Tamias townsendii), or Bushdou’l in the Wiyot language, is one of the cutest critters in Humboldt forests. These feisty creatures can be quite aggressive with each other–especially the females, who are larger than males. Despite their animosity, these chipmunks will risk their own safety to warn neighbors of approaching predators. Townsend’s chipmunks maintain a roughly 1-acre home range, where they forage for mushrooms, seeds, and berries which they carry in their cheek pouches. They prefer habitat with low shrubs that can provide cover, and rarely venture into open areas. Each chipmunk lives in their own burrow, which can reach up to 10m in length. Townsend’s chipmunks facilitate seed dispersal by collecting seeds and bringing them back to their burrow, where they will germinate if not eaten. Around here, temperatures don’t get cold enough to trigger hibernation and chipmunks will stay active throughout the winter. In colder climates, they will hibernate through the winter in dens positioned on rocky slopes. Once they wake up in the spring, it’s time to mate! Females will give birth to 3-6 young, and care for them for 50 days before sending them off into the world. You can see these energetic little critters in the Arcata Community Forest, and other forested areas near water sources. 


California Quail
Scienti c Name: Callipepla californica
Wiyot Name: Dugak

Many of you may know the charming California Quail as the state bird of California. These birds, known as “dugak” in the Wiyot language, can be found in scrub brush, chaparral, farm fields, and forest edges. They spend most of their time foraging for insects, which make up the majority of their diet along with plants. When foraging, quail will stick close to shrub cover that they can disappear under in case a predator spots them. During non-breeding times, quail form social groups called “coveys”. Coveys travel, forage, and socialize together and especially love taking dust baths. To make a proper dust bath, a group of quail will settle down in soft dirt and shimmy on their bellies until a shallow indentation is formed. As they wiggle, they kick up a cloud of dust which helps maintain their feathers. Quail will continue to socialize while raising their chicks, forming “communal broods” with other families. Quail nest on the ground in shallow scrapes lined with soft plant matter. Females typically lay a clutch of 12 small speckled eggs, and can sometimes lay a second clutch if there is plentiful food that season. These charismatic critters can be seen scurrying around the edges of bushes, with males especially visible from their lookout spots on fenceposts and branches.