Presidio of San Francisco

Natural World

Recent Sand Dunes

Recent sand dunes cover the Colma Formation and the Franciscan Complex over large areas of San Francisco. These dunes are composed of sand that has blown up and over the hills from Ocean Beach and Baker Beach.

The sand originated on the broad coastal plain of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River system, which extended from the Golden Gate to the Farallon Islands during the last glacial period, when sea level was as much as 300 feet lower than present. Sea level rose rapidly between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago, transporting the sand from this plain onto the beaches, from where it then blew over the coastal hills.

From Plates to Clouds to Dunes

GEOLOGY
The
geologic setting of the Presidio has much to do with its special natural history. Titanic earth movements occurred here 100 million years ago, when one enormous tectonic plate slipped like a huge serpent beneath another plate. This movement is called “subduction.” One result of this slow-motion collision is a soil called … not surprisingly … serpentine. Serpentine soil hosts a special plant community called serpentine scrub ... one of many native plant communities at the Presidio. Fast forward 99-million years, and sand dunes began forming. The dunes are the result of yet another massive geologic event … the end of the last Glacial Period. As the planet warmed, the glaciers melted, the seas rose and the dunes were born. All this happened in the blink of a geologic eye … less than 10,000 years ago. The dunes host yet more unusual plants.

CLIMATE

 

Situated on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula, the cool Pacific waters surrounding the Presidio produce a moderate Mediterranean climate. This climate, coupled with a unique blend of serpentine soils and mobile sand dunes, sparked an explosion of plant and animal life adapted to the unusual conditions here.

 

 

 

PLANTS AND ANIMALS

The plants created worlds within worlds as each species carved out an exclusive community of life. The Presidio holds an unusually high number of rare and endangered plants. For example, the roots for the endangered Presidio Clarkia (Clarkia franciscana) can traced to the unusual serpentine grasslands found here. Beautiful wildflowers abound in the spring and summer, and the Presidio's animals include over 200 species of birds.

THE SURVIVORS

One odd twist of fate: The U-S Army is the reason the Presidio is like an environmental lifeboat. The Army focused construction in only certain areas. The rest of the undeveloped land was left … undeveloped. Because it was a military base, civilian access was also limited. The native plants and animals were protected as a by-product of military priorities.

Arroyo Willow Riparian Forest

Arroyo willow riparian forest is a stream or lake associated community dominated by arroyo willow, often in dense, pure stands. This riparian zone is found in the wetest portions of streambanks and lakesides.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Bordering Lobos Creek, near Mountain Lake, and in Tennessee Hollow.


 

 

Freshwater Marsh Community

The freshwater marsh community is composed of plants that grow in areas with perennial flooding or saturated soil and in areas where the water table is perched near the ground surface. The community is dominated by cattails, rushes, sedges, willows, ferns, and tules.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Freshwater marsh is found around the edge of Mountain Lake, along the bluffs near Fort Point, and in the back dune area at the east end of Crissy Field.


 

Coast Live Oak Riparian Forest

Live oak riparian forest is a stream or lake associated community dominated by dense stands of coast live oak. It is found above the willow riparian zone. The understory is usually more dense than that found under oak woodland, but at the one site where this community exists in the Presidio, along Lobos Creek, the understory is degraded by a dense cover of Cape ivy.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Bordering Lobos Creek.


 

Saltwater marsh community

Saltwater marsh community is a community dominated by herbaceous shrubs and perenial grasses that are influenced by salt and fresh water tidal innundations and fluctuations.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Recently re-established at the Crissy marsh. The members of this community have been brought to the new marsh from nearby local stocks. A number of rare and endangered plants that have not been recently recorded at the Presidio are also being introduced from nearby stocks.


 

Coastal Bluffs

Beaches and rocky shoreline lie at the base of the coastal bluffs, while their tops provide expansive views of the Pacific coastline. The Coastal Trail extends along the wind-swept coastal bluffs, where some of the most intact natural habitat in the Presidio harbors rare plants adapted to serpentine soil and cool foggy conditions. Gun batteries built in the 1890s for coastal defense and abandoned after World War II are scattered along the bluffs. A World War II memorial to soldiers lost at sea overlooks the area.

California Goldfields

Origin Of Genus Name: Lasthenia is Greek for a female pupil of Plato.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grassland and coastal prairie.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This annual native species of the Sunflower Family has yellow, daisy-like flowers with reddish stems and narrow leaves 2.5 inches long which are stiffly hairy at their base. Blooms March to May.

Native Californian Uses: Cahuilla used the parched seeds, grinding them into flour to make pinole, a ground meal.

 

Blue Toadflax

Origin Of Genus Name: Linaria is Latin for 'flax.'

Presidio locations: Found in coastal dune scrub.

Range in state: Northern and central coastal California and Sierra Nevada foothills.

Description: This native annual species has tiny violet-blue flowers resembling other members of the Snapdragon Family. Wispy stalks with smooth, slender leaves can be 6-24 inches in height.
Blooms March to June.

 

Greater Periwinkle

Origin Of Genus Name: Vinca is a Latin word meaning "to bind or conquer."

Presidio Locations: Found in ornamental planted and disturbed areas.

Range In State: Inner coastal California.

Description: This exotic, vining perennial is native to Europe and North Africa and has solitary, violet-blue flowers with 5 petals. Waxy leaves are oval with pointed tips and arranged in opposite pairs on arching stems that root at the tips and exude a milky latex when cut open. In moist and shady areas Greater Periwinkle creates a dense carpet that excludes virtually all other plant species. Blooms spring and early summer.


Yellow Bush Lupine

Origin Of Genus Name: Lupinus is Latin for "wolf."

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal dunes.

Range In State: Central to northern California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native of the Pea Family has smooth, green, hairy, palmate leaves (resembling the palm of your hand). The erect stems have dense, yellow flower clusters and pod like, brown-black fruit. Lupines have the ability to fix nitrogen into soil. Tree lupines are host larvae of the Tree Lupine Moth, a once federally threatened insect. Blooms May to August.

Native Californian Uses: The Pomo and the Kashaya used the root fibers to make string for deer and rabbit nets, gill nets and carrying nets.

 

Sea Thrift or Sea Pink

Armeria

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal bluffs, coastal dunes and marsh upland.

Range In State: Coastal California.

Description: This native perennial species has spherical clusters of tiny, funnel-shaped, pale pink flowers on stems 10 to 14 inches high with short, slender grass-like leaves in mounds. Blooms April to August.

 

Raven's Manzanita

Arctostaphylos hookerii ravenii

Family: Heather (Ericaceae)

Habitat: Open scrub areas on serpentine soils.

General Distribution: Historic distribution extended less than six miles from Fort Scott, in the Presidio, to Mount Davidson in San Francisco. Only one single plant existed as of 1987. That plant is located in the Presidio. Since 1987, a number of clones have been propagated from cuttings off the parent plant and have been planted at several sites around the Presidio.

Description: This low-growing evergreen shrub has reddish bark and does not have a basal burl. The leaves are round to broadly elliptic, growing from branchlets covered with fine grayish-white hairs. The small white flowers and fruit are sparse. Blooming time is from February to March.

Monitoring and Activities: The parent plant and 18 clones were monitored in 2000. The parent plant shows signs of growth and new leaf production. The most significant information concerning the manzanita this year is a life-threatening invasion of Tussock Moth larvae. The larvae have partially to fully defoliated many of the plants at one site and may be responsible for the deaths of 2 clones at that site. The parent plant and clones have also suffered significant dieback in the last two years due to a fungal pathogen that apparently had flourished following several years of above average rainfall.

 

California Phacelia

Origin Of Genus Name: Phacelia is Greek for 'cluster.'

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal bluffs.

Range In State: Northern and central coastal California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial has lavender, bell-shaped flowers in clusters that appear to be slightly coiled. Purple fiddleheads, resembling a scorpion's tail, appear as the new growth unfurls from middle to late spring, hence its also being known as California Scorpionweed. It can be low growing when it must adapt to the full force of ocean winds but can reach heights of up to 2 feet in more protected habitats. Blooms March to September.

Native Californian Uses: The Pomo used the fresh, crushed leaf juice to treat skin diseases. The Ohlone boiled roots for a tea to treat fevers and colds.

 

Foredune Plant Community

The foredune community is composed of low-growing perennial herbs and small shrubs that inhabit open dune areas adjacent to the beach. The plants are salt tolerant opportunists that pioneer harsh, low nutrient and frequently disturbed dune environments. Typically no single species dominates the cover in this community, but non-native iceplant has become a dominant species in many places and introduced grasses have taken over other areas as well. The foredune community is therefore greatly reduced from its historic distribution in California.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Baker Beach and Crissy Field immediately inland of the shoreline.

Brown Creeper

Certhia americana

Natural History: The Brown Creeper eats insects and other invertebrates by probing into bark and picking them off leaves. It often feeds by spiraling up a tree trunk. Nests are often built behind loose bark, usually in old-growth trees or snags. It is monogamous and breeds from March to mid-August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress, Redwood forests, and palm trees. It breeds within the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: This species is common in the Presidio year round.

Identifying Characteristics: The Brown Creeper is a small, slim bird with a brown color and light camouflage stripes. It is distinguished by its tendency to spiral up trees.

Harvest Brodiaea

Origin Of Genus Name: Brodiaea is named after James J. Brodie, a Scottish botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal prairie and serpentine grasslands.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native perennial has mounds of grass-like leaves, 4-16 inches in height, that dry out before the flower appears. Bell shaped flowers vary in intensity of violet-pink and are attached to a single stem in groups up to ten. Blooms May to August..

Native Californian Uses: The Yurok ate the bulbs as a vegetable by baking them in sand with a fire built over them.

 

Native Plant Communities

Many environmental

factors dictate the distribution of vegetation and plant communities at the Presidio. These include temperature, exposure to sun and wind, soil type, and available moisture. Although the modern landscape is drastically altered by the introduction of non-native grasses, vines, and trees, as well as by the cutting on the few native trees once here, some remnant and restored areas still preserve native plant communities. These include vestiges of the coastal prairie, sand dune, oak woodland, riparian forest, and wetland communities that once blanketed the Presidio.

Dune Tansy

Origin Of Genus Name: Tanacetum is Latin for "immorality."

Presidio Locations: Found on active coastal dunes.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This native, perennial species has small yellow flowers forming flat-topped clusters and thick, feather-like leaves. Each leaflet has small side branches. The Dune Tansy --also known as Camphor Tansy-- is aromatic and can grow 4-16 inches high. Blooms June to August.

 

Presidio Clarkia

Origin Of Genus Name: Clarkia is named after Captain William Clark, co-leader and botanist of the Lewis and Clark party.

Presidio Locations: Found on serpentine bluffs and serpentine grasslands in open sunlit areas.

Range In State: Grows only in the Presidio and in the East Bay hills.The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Native Californian Uses: Parched, pulverized seeds of Clarkia species were known to be used for food by the Miwok.


Coastal Dune Scrub Community

The dune scrub community is found on inland dunes landward of the foredune community. It is characterized by densely-packed shrubs interspersed with scattered areas of grasses, wildflowers, and open sand. The dune scrub community is represents several stages of ecological succession that follow disturbances such as fires or dune blowouts. Dune blowouts are areas where high winds may reactivated the dunes, causing sand to blow out and uprooting vegetation in the area; new dunes may also form and cover an established dune community if the blown out sand is deposited in a localized area. Urban encroachment and the introduction of non-native plants has greatly reduced the extent of the dune scrub community in San Francisco, where it once covered 14 square miles.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Feral Dunes, Lobos Creek Valley, North Baker Beach, Crissy Field, and Presidio Hills.

Common Native Plants

Lupinus arboreus Mimulus aurantiacus Rhamnus californica Lupinus chamissonis Baccharis pilularis Eriophyllum staechadifolium Ericameria ericoides Toxicodendron diversilobum

Rare and Endangered Plants

Silene verecunda Gilia capitata ssp.chamissonis Lessingia germanorum germanorum Chorizanthe cuspidata Erysimum franciscanum

 

California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica

Origin Of Genus Name: Adelbert von Chamisso named this genus after his shipmate, J.F. Eschscholtz, a Russian naturalist who visited California and the Presidio in 1816.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal bluffs, dune flats, grassy hills, rocky ridges. This is the type locality for this species, which means that it was scientifically described and named based on specimens collected at the Presidio.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This annual or perennial native grows from heavy taproot and has lacy, blue-green leaves. This California State flower's shiny, golden-orange flowers are bowl shaped. Blooms February to November.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone used a decoction prepared from the flowers to rid the scalp of lice. When a child was restless or unable to sleep, one or two California Poppy flowers were placed beneath their bed to help relax them. Pomo mothers used a decoction of mashed seed pods to stop nursing.

 

Non-native Flowers

Before the Europeans arrived, wildflowers in the Presidio had grown here for tens of thousands of years.

By introducing non-native flowers and other plant species, settlers drastically altered the landscape.

While some of these new flowers ... or "outsiders" ... don't seem to threaten our native species or ecosystems, many are invasive.

Invasive means "outsiders" can spread quickly to disrupt or push-out native plant species. There are a lot of reasons: "Outsiders" aren't bothered by local diseases or local animals don't like eating the new flowers or the "outsiders" produce a lot of seeds or they have accelerated reproductive cycles.

To bring balance back into our environment, these "outsiders" have to be removed ... by hand. It's incredibly hard work and takes literally years to change the land back to its original state.

 

Beach Strawberry

Origin Of Genus Name: Fragaria is Latin for "fragrant."

Presidio Locations: Found on ocean beaches, dunes, grasslands and coastal prairie.

Description: This native perennial species of the Rose Family has 3 dark green, serrated, oval leaflets with a waxy surface that helps keep moisture inside the plants. From white flowers it produces small, scarlet berries similar in appearance to cultivated strawberries. This is the only plant that is grown in the park's native plant nurseries which is hardy enough to be transplanted directly from rooting medium into the field. Blooms April to August.

Native Californian Uses: Although not found in abundance, gathered strawberries were savored by the Pomo and eaten raw or dried.

 

Himalayan Blackberry

Origin Of Genus Name: Rubus is Latin for "bramble."

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed, moist areas.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description:

Introduced from Eurasia, this shrubby weed of the Rose Family has white-to-pinkish ½ inch flowers and sharply toothed, lobed leaves. The stout canes are heavily armed with curved thorns and form dense, impenetrable thickets up to 15 feet high. Although the berries are enjoyed by both people and wildlife, the seeds are dispersed by song birds, making complete eradication impractical. Himalayan Blackberry thickets can alter ecosystem functions by hindering reestablishment of native berry species and by shading out and killing smaller native species. It is distinguished from native blackberry species by the white undersides of the leaves, rather than green, and by the leaves clustering in fives instead of threes for the native species.

Presidio Forest

A mature forest of pine, cypress, eucalyptus and other non-native trees covers the higher areas of the Presidio. The army planted these trees from the 1880s through the 1940s in order to make the area appear larger with more relief, to limit visibility within the Presidio, and to beautify the post. Signature groves of the planted cultural forest are being maintained and replanted as the old trees die or blow over, but native plants are also being restored to outlying areas where the forest has expanded out of its original boundaries.

Bluedicks

Origin Of Genus Name: Dichelostemma is a Greek reference to appendages on the stamens, the male part of the flower. Capitatum refers to flowers forming a cap at the top of the stalk.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grassland, coastal prairie, and dune scrub.

Range In State: Throughout California

Description: This native, perennial species of the Lily Family has two or three grass-like leaves up to 16 inches long and a single flower stalk which can reach 2 feet. Often the two to fifteen tightly packed flowers that form the head are pale lavender to dark purple. Blooms March to May.

Native Californian Uses: The Miwok ate the bulbs, an important starch source, steaming them in an earth oven.

 

Franciscan Thistle

Cirsium andrewsii

Family: Sunflower (Asteraceae)

Habitat: Frequents wet or marshy ground along streams and seeps, sometimes on serpentine soils.

General Distribution: Coastal counties from Sonoma to San Mateo. In the Presidio, this species is found on the bluffs near Fort Point.

Description: This robust thistle stands up to six feet tall and the stems can reach two inches in diameter. The stems and upper surfaces of the leaves are thinly cobwebby, as are the leaf undersides. The rosy purple flower heads are also densely cobwebby. Blooming time is June to July. Superficially, this species resembles the common non-native bull thistle.

Monitoring and Activities: The population near Fort Point has been declining in recent years. However, two distinct populations have been discovered on the coastal bluffs in the past three years and are stable. Experimental seeding of other sites also is under way. 

Fumitory

Fumaria 'fumus

Origin Of Genus Name: Fumaria is from the Latin 'fumus,' meaning "smoky," from the odor of the fresh roots.

Presidio Locations: Found in dune scrub and oak woodland.

Range In State: Central and southern coastal California.

Description: This exotic annual species of the Poppy Family has climbing flower stalks with approximately 20 white or pink-flushed flowers and small leaves divided into narrow segments. Blooms April to August.


California Hedgenettle

Origin Of Genus Name: Stachys is Greek for "ear of corn."

Presidio Locations: Inspriation Point

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native annual species is not really a nettle at all, but a member of the Mint Family. Flowers are light purple to pink to white, with 5 petals in two lips arranged in whorls of flowers along top of stout stems up to 3 feet in height. Leaves are dark green, triangular, hairy and toothed and grow in pairs. Blooms March to July.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone used poultices of heated leaves for earaches and infected sores. They also used decoctions of roots used as a gargle for sore throats and internally for stomachaches.

Milkmaids

Origin Of Genus Name: Cardamine is Greek for a Cress with medicinal uses.

Presidio Locations: Damp forested areas.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native of the Mustard Family has white to light pink flowers in multiple clusters at the top of a single stem 4-15 inches in height. Leaves are oval at the base and three-part upper leaves are blade-like. Blooms February to April.

Native Californian Uses: The Yurok used Milkmaids as a season indicator, as it was among the first plants to flower in the spring.

 

San Francisco Spineflower

Origin Of Genus Name: Chorizanthe is Greek for "divided flower."

Presidio Locations: Found throughout inland sand dunes.

Range In State: San Francisco Bay area.

Description: This rare, native annual species has small, hairy, white to rose colored flowers. The stem is soft and hairy and often prostrate. San Francisco Spineflower is an early dune colonizer, dependent on having open sandy habitat for establishment. Blooms June to August.


Coastal Prairie - Serpentine Grassland Community

Coastal Prairie was historically the most common plant community in San Francisco and the Presidio. This grass and herb community is found on coastal terraces where soils are well-developed. Serpentine grasslands have a similar composition to the coastal prairie, but have the addition of the rare serpentine endemic species listed below. Today, this community on the Presidio is mainly limited to the area around Inspiration Point.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Some terrace areas at the top of the coastal bluffs and the Inspiration Point area.


 

 

Chamisso's Lupine

Origin Of Genus Name: Lupinus is Latin for "wolf". Chamissonis is named after Ludolf Adlbert von Chamisso, French-born German botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal scrub and dunes.

Range In State: California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native shrub of the Pea Family has violet to blue flowers and silvery white hairs covering their gray-green, palmate leaves having 7 to 10 leaflets. All Lupines produce seeds in pods that look like pea pods and contain alkaloids which are extremely poisonous. Blooms March to July.

Native Californian Uses: The Coast Miwok used the Chamisso's Lupine roots to make cords and ropes. The cords were then used to make beads and shells round and uniform in size: thin, flat shell disks were threaded onto the cords and rubbed against sandstone until filed to the desired shape. The Maidu leached the leaves in a running stream of water overnight to make them palatable.

 

Coast Fiddleneck

Amsinckia spectabilis

Origin Of Genus Name: Amsinckia is named after W. Amsinck, patron of Hamburg Botanic Garden.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal dunes and scrub.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: . This native annual species has yellow-orange flowers with hairy stems that mostly lie flat on the ground and curve up at the tips. The name 'Fiddleneck' refers to the plants flowering stem, which looks like the neck of a fiddle when it uncoils. Blooms April to August.

Native Californian Uses: Young leaves were rolled into balls and eaten raw by the Coast Miwok. The seeds were used to make pinole, a ground meal.

Liveforever

Dudleya farinosa

Origin Of Genus Name: Dudleya is named after W.R. Dudley, western U.S. botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal cliffs, sandy bluffs and coastal dune scrub.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: . This low growing, native perennial species is densely covered with a mealy wax. It has pale, lemon-yellow flowers at the tip of a long reddish stalk. The succulent triangular leaves form a basal rosette and clasp the flower stem. Dudleya is often called "hen and chicks" because the small yellow flowers can be thought of as chicks trailing behind the mother plant. Blooms July to September.

Native Californian Uses: Leaves and flowering stems were eaten raw by the Cahuilla.

 

California Quail

Callipepla californica

Natural History: The California Quail feeds on vegetation, seeds, and fruits. It takes cover in brushy vegetation and trees. This species requires a varied habitat with water and openings. This non-migratory bird builds nests in ground depressions from April to August. Because of habitat destruction from urbanization of the San Francisco Peninsula, quail are rare in San Francisco and the Presidio is an important refuge.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is mostly found in coastal scrub areas, and in forests, lawns, and areas of ornamentals. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common year round.

Identifying Characteristics: This species appears much like a chicken. It is gray with a short black plume curving forward from its head.

 

Tree Swallow

Tachycineta bicolor

Natural History: The Tree Swallow feeds primarily on insects caught in flight. It takes cover in woodlands near areas of water. It nests in cavities in snags, trees, and cliffs, breeding from mid-April to mid-August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in forests of eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, and Redwood. This species breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common in the Presidio in the summer, spring, and fall; however, it is rare during the winter months.

Identifying Characteristics: This species has a steely blue or green-black upper top and white below. It can be seen gliding in circles.

Calla Lily

Origin Of Genus Name: Zantedeschia is named for F. Zantedeschi, early Italian botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found in seeps and other wetland areas.

Range In State: Throughout coastal California.

Description: This exotic perennial from South Africa has showy, white, funnel-like bracts or modified leaves surrounding a fleshy, yellow spike which is actually many tiny flowers. Large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves grow from a rhizome or underground stem capable of producing new stems up to 3 feet in height. The European name 'Calla' originates from the Greek word kallos for "beauty." Although not related to true lilies, the Calla Lily is a popular houseplant and is highly toxic to both animals and humans. Blooms April to August.


Coast Bluff Scrub Community

The coast bluff scrub community is dominated by low shrubs and prostrate herbaceous species found on steep, exposed bluffs above the bay and ocean. Vegetative cover may be dense or sparse depending on slope steepness. The bluff scrub community may grow on either sandy or serpentine soils - it mostly occupies serpentine soils at the Presidio. The species composition is very similar to and intergraddes into the coastal scrub community, but differs in containing species better adapted to the extreme wind, salt spray, and steep slopes of the bluffs.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Best developed on the coastal bluffs between the north end of Baker Beach and Fort Point. Also found on bluffs above bay near Fort Point.


 

Coast Buckwheat

Origin Of Genus Name: Eriogonum is Greek for "woolly knees."

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the Presidio, especially on coastal bluffs and dunes.

Range In State: Northern to central California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native, perennial species has white or pinkish flowers that densely cluster to form a ball shaped flower head. The paddle-shaped leaves are greenish gray above and white underneath, and have densely matted hairs underneath them. This is also a nectar source for the Green Hairstreak Butterfly and other summer butterflies. Blooms May to September.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone, Maidu and Round Valley tribes used a decoction of root, stalk and leaves for coughs. Yuki and Round Valley women made a tea to relieve gynecological problems.

 

California Buttercup

Origin Of Genus Name: Ranunculus is Latin for "little frog" from its preference for wet habitats.

Presidio Locations: Found on serpentine bluffs and grasslands in wet areas.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native, perennial species has waxy yellow flowers and leaves that are wedge shaped, toothed to deeply cut and hairy. Blooms March to August.

Native Californian Uses: The Miwok dried, stored, parched, and pulverized seeds, using them for food.

 

Wildflowers

The Presidio's wildflowers are remnants of what was once an extensive coastal ecosystem found throughout San Francisco.

For thousands of years, a wide variety of native plants were harvested for ceremony, medicine and sustenance by indigenous populations. These Native Californians were very careful in managing their plant resources.

The first European explorers were first awe-struck by the incredible beauty; then they began to write in detail about what they saw. 

Sailing along the California coastline as the setting sun reflected off shiny petals, Spanish mariners saw California poppies upon the coastal ranges, exclaiming, "This is the land of fire," and called them "copa de oro" or "cup of gold." 

Early botanists began compiling 'floras' or catalogues of the new world plants. Adelbert von Chamisso and Johann Eschscholtz arrived at the Presidio in 1816. They immediately began documenting and naming the plants right at their feet.

Although the landscape of the Presidio has been greatly altered through the centuries, many natural habitats remain relatively intact. Through the efforts of a dedicated staff and thousands of volunteers, these native plant communities are being restored and preserved, ensuring that our beautiful wildflowers and their dependent animal and insect species will continue to thrive ... especially the threatened or endangered species.

 

Wild Mustard

Origin Of Genus Name: Brassica is Latin for "cabbage."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal prairie and dune scrub.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This exotic perennial from Europe and Asia has clusters of tiny, yellow flowers with four petals. Upright, sparingly branched stems have blade-like leaves and can reach 3 to 6 feet in height. Wild Mustard is thought to have been introduced to California by the Franciscan Padres who scattered the seeds along the Camino Real to make the road easier to find. Blooms January to May.


 

San Francisco Campion

Origin Of Genus Name: Silene is Greek for "saliva" referring to the gummy exudation on the stems.

Presidio Locations: Forms colonies on open sandy soil. Only two populations are found on the Presidio.

Range In State: California coast.

Description:This rare, native perennial species has bell-shaped flowers with ten veined, pink to rose petals, and long, tapering, hairy leaves. The San Francisco Campion is a federal candidate for being listed as an endangered species. Blooms March to June.


Bermuda Buttercup

Origin Of Genus Name: Oxalis is Greek for "sour."

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the Presidio especially in disturbed areas.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This exotic perennial species is from South Africa and has funnel-shaped, yellow flowers with 5 petals. The leaves are clover-like and have leaflets grouped in threes; each is heart-shaped and creased down the middle. The plant contains high levels of oxalic acid making it sour. Bermuda Buttercup has edible leaves, often used in salads. Blooms March to May.


Shooting Star

Origin Of Genus Name: Dodecatheon comes from the Greek word dodeka for "twelve" and theos for "gods." ." It was named by Pliny, a Roman naturalist and writer, who thought the cluster of flowers looked like an assembly of the twelve important gods of the Roman world.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal bluffs.

Description: The native perennial has nodding, bell shaped, rose-purple flowers on dark stems 3 to 12 inches in height and rosettes of broad, glossy leaves held flat to the ground. Hendersonii is named after Louis Fourniquet Henderson, early 19th century botanist. Blooms Febuary to April.

Native Californian Uses: The Yuki ate the leaves and roots after roasting them in ashes. Flowers were used by the Pomo as ornaments for dances and hung on baby baskets as a sleep aid.

 

Freshwater Seep Community

The freshwater seep: This community is composed of herbaceous plants that inhabit areas having seasonal or perennial soil saturation due to groundwater seepage. This community is dominated by rushes and sedges.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Freshwater seeps occur in areas primarily underlain by serpentinite rock and are found scattered through the coastal bluffs, bluffs above Crissy Field, near Inspiration Point, and at Presidio Hills.


 

Plants

Many environmental factors dictate the distribution of vegetation and plant communities at the Presidio. These include climatic factors, such as temperature, exposure to sun and wind, and available moisture; geologic factors, such as bedrock and and soil types. Recently, human factors, such as land disturbance and introduced plants, have altered plant distributions at the Presidio.

Local environmental influences led to a high diversity of plants at the Presidio, and many species have a very limited geographic range (endemic species). As a result, the Presidio today is home to a high density of rare and endangered species, finding refuge in this island surrounded by the City of San Francisco.

The Presidio still preserves tiny remnants of the original San Francisco landscape in its nooks and crannies, and restoration projects are re-introducing native plants to areas where they have long been eradicated. In the spring and early summer, wildflowers abound in many of the natural areas.

Yet, the modern landscape looks very different from that which the Europeans encountered on their arrival in 1776. They introduced non-native plants, grazed livestock, and cut down the few native tree species that grew here.

Fennel

Origin Of Genus Name: Foeniculum is Latin for "fennel."

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed areas.

Range In State: Throughout most of California.

Description: This exotic perennial of the Carrot Family is from southern Europe and has tiny, yellow, five-petaled flowers growing in umbrella-like clusters. Feathery, almost hairlike foliage is licorice scented and the lacy, finely dissected leaves have swollen petioles (leaf stems) that clasp the main stalk, which can reach 6 feet in height. Blooms May to September.


Sea Rocket

Cakile

Origin Of Genus Name: Cakile is the Arabic name for this plant.

Presidio Locations: Found on beach dunes.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This low lying, exotic, annual species of the Mustard Family has waxy, thick, deeply lobed leaves. The four-petaled flower ranges from white to purple. This European native forms a low mound and its shoots tolerate burial by drifting sand. Blooms April to July.

 

Yarrow

Origin Of Genus Name: Achillea is named after the Achilles of ancient Greek mythology, who was supposedly the first to discover its many virtues.

Presidio Locations: Widespread and common in sandy, serpentine and clay soil.

Range In State: Found throughout California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native, perennial species has fuzzy, fern-like leaves, arranged alternately on stems that may reach several feet in height. The inflorescence (flower head) is bell shaped with tiny, white, daisy-like flowers arranged in large clusters. Blooms from March to November.

Native Californian Uses: Dried or green mashed leaves were used by the Miwok for pain and during influenza epidemics. The Pomo and Kashaya used the mashed leaf juice as a salve on sores. The Ohlone used a tea from Yarrow for treating stomach aches, as well as washing skin sores. Heated leaves were applied to wounds to prevent swelling or were held in the mouth to alleviate toothaches.

 

Footsteps-Of-Spring

Origin Of Genus Name: Sanicula is Latin meaning "to heal."

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grasslands and on serpentine coastal bluffs.

Range In State: Northern and central California coast.

Description: This native perennial of the Carrot Family has tiny, yellow, button-like flowers with five petals in umbrella-shaped groupings on short stems with yellow-green, spiny, maple-like leaves in flat rosettes. Blooms February to April.

California Native Uses: The tuberous roots were eaten raw by the Kashaya and the Pomo.

 

Ice Plant

Origin Of Genus Name: Carpobrotus is Greek for "edible fruit."

Presidio Locations: Found in the foredune, middle dune, and back dune communities.

Range In State: Throughout coastal California.

Description: This exotic perennial species is from coastal South Africa and has yellow, pink or white flowers. Fleshy leaves are triangular in cross sections and can have red, orange, or purple edges. Ice Plant, also known as Hottentot Fig, was originally used along highways to stabilize blowing dunes. By forming a dense, invasive, low growing mat, it prevents the natural movement of sand, which most native dune species need to survive. It also increases soil salinity therefore discouraging the growth of indigenous plants. Blooms April to October.


Seaside Daisy

Origin of Genus Name: Erigeron is Greek for "an old man in the spring," referring to its early flowering and fluffy white seed heads.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal bluffs, sand flats and rock hills.

Range In State: Northern and central California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial species of the Sunflower Family has large violet to pale lavender daisy-like flowers with yellow centers and spatula shaped leaves that clump together at the base of the plant in a rosette. Blooms April to August.

 

Coastal Live Oak Riparian Forest

Live oak riparian forest is a stream or lake associated community dominated by dense stands of coast live oak. It is found above the willow riparian zone. The understory is usually more dense than that found under oak woodland, but at the one site where this community exists in the Presidio, along Lobos Creek, the understory is degraded by a dense cover of Cape ivy.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Bordering Lobos Creek.


 

Deerweed

Lotus scoparius

Origin Of Genus Name: From the Greek "lotos," a term for clover-like plants.

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the dunes on sandy flats and brushy hills, particularly at Crissy Fiels and Lobos Creek dunes.

Range In State: California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This perennial native species of the Pea Family has small yellow flowers and is often shrubby. The stems are robust and the plant forms prostrate mats. The leaflets are well-spaced and are found in groups of three. Blooms June to August.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone used the fiberous foliage as building material for house thatching and as a decoction for coughs.

Mock Heather

Ericameria ericoides

Origin Of Genus Name: From the Greek ereika for "heath," and meris or meros for "division or part," referring to the heath-like leaves.

Presidio Locations: Found in stabilized dunes and inland sandy soils.

Range In State: Throughout coastal California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial shrub has tiny leaves that grow in a fan shape. Its cylindrical fruit is hairy with a white to tan pappus (similar to the windblown part of a dandelion.) The yellow flowers have 2-6 small petals. Mock Heather, also known as California Goldenbush, is one of the dominant plants found in the central dune scrub plant community. Blooms September to October.

Native Californian Uses: The Coast Miwok heated the leaves and used them for skin sores.

 

Ithuriel's Spear

Triteleia laxa

Origin Of Genus Name: Triteleia is Greek for "three complete" because all flower parts are in three's.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grasslands and coastal prairie; occasionally on inland dunes.

Range In State: Central California to Cascade Range.

Description: This native, perennial species in the Lily Family has leaves 8 to 16 inches long and 2 to 8 inches wide. The blue-purple to white flowers occur in clusters at the end of a long stem. Blooms May to July.

Native Californian Uses: The bulbs were gathered with a digging stick and eaten by the Karuk, Pomo, Yuki, Wailaki, Coast Miwok, and Maidu.

 

Coast Angelica

Angelica

Origin Of Genus Name: Angelica is Latin for "angelic."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal bluff scrub.

Range In State: Northern and Central coastal California.

Description: This native perennial of the Carrot Family has numerous tiny white flowers in clusters forming multiple 5-6" umbels on a single, coarse, stout stalk up to 3 feet in height. A distinctive "puckered pod" forms at top of the stalk before flowers. Leaves are divided 2-3 times into rounded, toothed leaflets, woolly below. Hendersonii is named for Louis Fourniquet Henderson, early 19th century botanist. Blooms June to November.

Native Californian Uses:

Heated leaves were used by the Ohlone for skin disorders. They treated headaches by inhaling the smoke from burning roots and applied burned twigs for rheumatic pains.

Narrowleaf Mule-ears

Origin Of Genus Name: Wyethia is named for Nathaniel Wyeth, an early explorer of the American West.

Presidio Locations: Found in grassland and coastal prairie.

Range In State: Northern to central California.

Description: This native perennial species of the Sunflower Family has 3 inch yellow daisy-like flowers with 1-2 foot long, smooth, tapering leaves. One of the 'compass plants', there is a belief that their erect leaves always stand with their edges pointing north and south. Blooms March to May.

Native Californian Uses: The roots of Narrowleaf Mule-ears were pounded to produce a thick lather which was rubbed on the chest as cure for various lung problems.

 

Checkerbloom

Origin Of Genus Name: Sidalcea is from two Greek names for mallow: 'Sida' and 'Alcea.'

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grasslands, coastal prairie, and bluffs.

Range In State: Throughout California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial species can grow up to 2 ft tall, sprawling with hairy stems. The leaf shape can vary considerably on a single plant; always toothed or lobed. The flowers are pale to bright pink with lacy, white veins and 5 squared off, slightly notched petals, 1 - 2 inches across; clustered along stem. Blooms March to May.

Native Californian Uses: The Coast Miwok used the seeds for pinole, a ground meal.

 

San Francisco Owls Clover

Triphysaria

Origin Of Genus Name: Triphysaria is Greek for "3 bladders" and refers to lower lip pouches on the flower.

Presidio Locations: Found on the serpentine coastal prairie. In the Presidio, two populations are known to exist.

Range In State: Central California coast and San Francisco Bay Area.

Description: This rare and endangered, native annual species has small, tube-like, cream to white flowers with inflated lower lips with 3 prominent sacs arranged in compact, dense clusters. Leaves are deeply divided into 5 to 9 linear lobes on stems 4 to 12 inches high. Blooms April to May.

Coastal Tidytips

Origin Of Genus Name: Layia is named for botanist George Tradescent Lay, who visited California in the early 19th century.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grassland.

Range In State: Northern-central to southern California coast.

Description: This native annual of the Sunflower Family has 2-3 inch yellow, daisy-like flowers with white at the petal tips. Narrow, lobed leaves are on stems a foot or more in height. Coastal Tidytips is a food source for the threatened Bay Checkerspot Butterfly. Blooms April to May.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone ate the seeds as pinole, a ground meal.

 

San Francisco Gumplant

Grindelia hirsutula maritima

Origin Of Genus Name: Grindelia is named after D.H. Grindel, 1776-1836, Latvian botanist.

Presidio Locations: Coastal bluffs and coastal hillsides usually on serpentine soils.

Range In State: Coastal areas of central California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This rare native perennial species grows one to two feet tall with herbaceous stems originating at a woody base. The Gumplant is somewhat resinous, particularly the flower head. The fairly thick leaves have fine saw-toothed edges. The flower is daisy-like and yellow, and the buds are topped by a drop of gummy material. Blooms August to September.

Native Californian Uses: An infusion of pulverized leaves were applied to sores by the Miwok. Also used by the Pomo as a sedative, antispasmodic, expectorant, to treat poison-ivy, and as a tea substitute.


Giant Vetch

Origin Of Genus Name: Vicia is Latin for "vetch."

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed areas.

Description: This native perennial species of the Pea Family has 10 to 16 leaves consisting of 5 to 8 pairs of linear to oblong-linear leaflets, often toothed or lobed, on smooth stems with many tendrils. The numerous leaflets distinguish it from other pea-like climbers. The drooping flowers are red to lavender-purple and grow in clusters of 6 to 15. Blooms April to June.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone used a decoction of the roots as a purgative and the foliage as camouflage during deer hunting.

 

Ceanothus or Coast Blue Blossom

Origin Of Genus Name: Ceanothus is Latin for "thistle."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal bluff scrub.

Range In State: Throughout California. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial is a widely branching shrub with round, pale green twigs and short, oval, somewhat leathery leaves. Pale blue to white flowers grow in oblong clusters 2-3 inches long. Blooms March to July.

Native Californian Uses: The Pomo used the fresh or dried flowers as a soap for washing hands, face and body; mixing the flowers with water to produce a fine lather when rubbed briskly on the skin. Flowers were also used in dance wreathes at their Strawberry Festival.

 

Pink Sand Verbena

Origin Of Genus Name: Abronia is Greek for "graceful."

Presidio Locations: Found in foredune areas along Crissy Field.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: The native annual species has fragrant rose-purple flowers with reddish stems. Leaves are fleshy and oval shaped. Pink Sand Verbena blossoms were first collected by European naturalists in 1786 in Monterey and was the first California native plant to be described scientifically. Blooms from April to August.

 

Marin Dwarf Flax

(Hesperolinon congestum)

Status:
Federal: Proposed Threatened
State: Threatened
California Native Plant Society: List 1B, R-E-D Code 3-3-3 (see below)

3. Occurrence limited to one or a few highly restricted populations or present in such small numbers that it is seldom reported.
3. Endangered throughout its range.
3. Endemic to California

Family: Flax (Linaceae)

Habitat: Serpentine bluffs and grasslands and openings in serpentine scrub. At the Presidio this species is found on the serpentine bluffs.

General Distribution: Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Fewer than 20 sites known. Only one site remains at the Presidio.

Description: This small annual species is four to eight inches tall, has a slender threadlike stem and linear leaves. The flowers are small with five rose to whitish petals and form congested, flat-topped clusters. Blooming time is from May to July.

Monitoring and Activities:

Populations of this species are declining, and the species may soon be lost from the Presidio if recent trends are not reversed.

Blue-eyed Grass

Sisyrinchium bellum

Origin Of Genus Name: Sisyrinchium is the name used by Theophrastus for Iris-like plants.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grasslands.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native, perennial species of the Iris family has deep bluish to blue-violet flowers with yellow, or rarer white centers. What looks like six equal petals are really three sepals alternating with three petals that just happen to be alike in color and texture. The leaves are narrow and grass-like. Blooms March to July.

California Native Uses: The Coast Miwok used tea made from Blue-Eyed Grass to treat stomach-aches. The Ohlone used the tea to reduce fever.

Dune Knotweed

Origin Of Genus Name: Polygonum is Greek for "many knees."

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal dunes and dune scrub.

Range In State: Central to northern California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native, low growing shrub has white or pink flowers and branches tipped with rounded, needle-like leaves. Blooms June to August.

 

Douglas Iris

Origin Of Genus Name: Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Presidio Locations: Found in serpentine grasslands, serpentine chaparral, coastal prairie and the understory of cultural plantation.

Range In State: Coastal ranges north of Santa Barbara. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial species has dark lavender to deep reddish purple flowers. The flowers have three sepals, three petals and three stamens. Douglas Iris, also called lavendel, has leathery, dark green, grass-like leaves that sprout from a snake-like root called a rhizome. Blooms March to July.

California Native Uses: Douglas Iris is known to be one of the most important sources of rope and basket-making fiber in northern California for a large number of tribes. Coast Miwok have used Douglas Iris to make a tea that induces vomiting. The Pomo and the Klamath have used fibers from the edges of leaves to make a strong rope. The strands on the edges have been removed and cleaned with a sharp oblong tool made from abalone shell fastened to the thumb. This process was extremely time-consuming: a twelve foot long rope took nearly six weeks to make.

 

Coast Rock Cress

Origin Of Genus Name: Arabis is Latin for "of Arabia."

Presidio Locations: Found on rocky coastal bluffs and ridges of serpentinite.

Range In State: Central coastal California.

Description: This rare, native perennial species of the Mustard Family grows up to 12 inches in height with showy, fragrant, pink to purple four-petaled flowers with white centers. Leaves are long, with distinct individual hairs on edges; forming a rosette at the base of the stem. Blooms from February to April.


Coastal Serpentine Scrub

The coastal scrub community on the Presidio is largely a unique serpentine variant of coastal scrub that includes the vestigial remnants, such as Raven's manzanita and California lilac, of a serpentine chaparral community. This shrub-dominated community is found on gentler slopes than those containing the bluff scrub community and mostly occupies serpentine outcrops with shallow soils and of limited local extent. The community supports many rare plants, including Raven's manzanita, which may have been the historically dominant shrub in a no longer extant serpentine chaparral community.

Typical Sites at the Presidio: Less steep parts and top of the coastal bluffs north of Baker Beach and the bluffs near Fort Point and behind Crissy Field.


 

Cobweb Thistle

Origin of genus name: Cirsium is Greek for "thistle."

Presidio locations: Found in dune grassland and dune scrub.

Range in state: Throughout most of California.

Description: This native perennial species has solitary, pink-to-rose flowers on stout, leafy stems up to 2 feet in height with narrow, alternating, spiny leaves up to 12 inches long. A webbing of filmy, white threads winds below the flower heads and the underside of the leaves. Blooms March to May.

Native Californian Uses: The spring stems were skinned and eaten raw by the Tubatulabal and the Kawaiisu. A tea was made from the roots by the Ohlone and used to treat asthma.

Coast Cryptantha or Popcorn Flower

cryptos anthos

Origin Of Genus Name: From the Greek cryptos, "hidden," and anthos, "flower," and thus meaning "hidden flower," a reference to the first known species which had small inconspicuous flowers which self-fertilized without opening.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal dunes and dune scrub.

Range In State: Coastal California.

Description: This native annual has clusters of tiny white flowers with 5 petals and bristly hairs. The blade-like leaves are on stems reaching is up to 2 feet in height. Blooms April to June.

 

Bicolor Lupine or Miniature Lupine

Origin Of Genus Name: Lupinus is Latin for "wolf."

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the sand dunes.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This annual native has tiny, deep blue flowers. The plant was once thought to deplete or "wolf" the mineral content of the soil; hence the genus name derived from the Latin lupus for "wolf." Actually the plant and all of the Lupine Family enhances soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form. It has palmate (looks like the palm of your hand) leaves which are quite hairy. Blooms March to June.

 

Coast Dandelion

(Agoseris apargioides var. apargioides)

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the Presidio inland and particularly on the coastal dunes.

Range In State: California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native perennial species has yellow flowers resembling the non-native weed. The flower petals are considered to be individual flowers and will form individual seeds, however, the seedhead of the Coast Dandelion is a very dense sphere as opposed to the non-native's more feathery, open head. The leaves are smooth to softly hairy. It can grow to 4 to 18 inches high. Blooms May to August.

California Native Uses: Young greens were eaten in the early spring to purify the blood. Roots were used as tea for heartburn.

 

Sticky Monkey Flower

Origin Of Genus Name: Mimulus is Latin for "little mime or comic actor," for the face-like corolla.

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the dunes, coastal scrub and serpentine bluffs.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native shrub has smooth to hairy leaves that are sticky with a resin that protects against desiccation. The long stems have main leaves that have axials with clusters of smaller leaves. Its yellowish-orange flowers have petals shaped like a tube. Blooms July to September.

Native Californian Uses: The Coast Miwok placed the crushed leaves on sores and burns. The roots have been used to treat fever, dysentery, diarrhea, and to curtail hemorrhages. The Pomo have used a decoction made from Sticky Monkey Flower to treat sore, bloodshot eyes which affected many of the men and women who lived in smoky, poorly ventilated dwellings. The flowers commonly have been used to ornament Miwok wreaths and children's hair.

 

San Francisco Willow Herb

Origin Of Genus Name: Epilobium from the Greek epi "upon", lobus "a pod", ion "a violet."

Presidio Locations: Found in seeps and other wetland areas.

Range In State: Northern and central coastal California.

Description: This native perennial species grows up to 5 feet high and has deep pink flowers on a single, slender, elongated stem with willow-like leaves 4-8 inches long. Blooms July to September.

Rare and Endangered Plants

California in general, and the Bay Area in particular, are places of great biological diversity owing to the wide variety of environmental conditions found here. On the San Francisco Peninsula, conditions leading to high biological diversity and species with limited distributions (endemic species) include 1) the interaction of maritime weather and Mediterranean climate to produce localized climatic zones, 2) the development of diverse habitats and barriers to dispersal by mountains and bay, and 3) the presence of a variety of geologic and soil conditions, such as nutrient-poor sand dunes and serpentine-derived soils. This combination of conditions allowed for a flourishing adaptive radiation of many closely related species.

All this is threatened by urban sprawl and the introduction of competitive non-native species like annual grasses and eucalyptus trees. The few places where natural conditions remain are now refuges for rare species. The Presidio is probably the most important refuge in the San Francisco area because it contains many habitats and undeveloped natural areas.

Twelve plants found at the Presidio are designated as rare, threatened or endangered by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and/or the California Native Plant Society. In addition several other rare, threatened or endangered plant species have been re-introduced to the Presidio at some of our habitat restoration sites.

There is a policy that all rare plants are treated as though they have full protection of the Endangered Species Act. Because of their special status, monitoring of the Presidio's rare plants has been going on for years. The results have provide vital informational "baselines" for plants on the brink of extinction. Park stewards comb the far corners of the Presidio's remaining natural areas to census and map the plant populations every one to three years.

Rare plants in the Presidio are found in either dune or serpentine communities because invasive non-native plants are not able to dominate these nutrient-poor areas.

Plant populations can vary in size depending on the weather, plant competition and human management. Because things change slowly, the plant population trends must be monitored over several years before we know if our management practices are successful. We can report that our populations of rare dune species and perennial serpentine species have generally increased over recent years. The good news continues since the ranges for all twelve rare plants have not gotten smaller. In fact, some ranges have expanded through our work on growing the rare plants in nurseries and then slowly "outplanting" young plants.

In the dunes are three rare annual species:

SAN FRANCISCO SPINEFLOWER

DUNE GILIA

SAN FRANCISCO LESSINGIA

Two dune perennial species are considered rare:

SAN FRANCISCO WALLFLOWER

SAN FRANCISCO CAMPION

In areas with serpentine soils, there are three rare annual species:

SAN FRANCISCO OWL'S CLOVER

MARIN DWARF FLAX

PRESIDIO CLARKIA

The four rare perennial species that exist on serpentine are:

RAVEN'S MANZANITA

FRANCISCAN THISTLE

SAN FRANCISCO GUMPLANT

COAST ROCK CRESS

Sweet Pea

Origin Of Genus Name: Lathyrus is from the Greek lathyros, an old name for "pea."

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed areas.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This exotic perennial from southern Europe has distinctive flanges on the vining stems, making them appear flat and leaf-like. The paired leaves have a branched curly tendril arising from the base of each pair. The showy flowers with lobed petals are variously colored but often pink to violet. Like most members of the Pea Family, the seeds of Sweet Pea are full of nutrients, remaining viable for long periods of time. One plant can produce many hundreds of seeds during a growing season. The Sweet Pea is very tenacious and can spread for considerable distances. Blooms from April to October.


San Francisco Wallflower

Origin Of Genus Name: Erysimum is Greek for "to help."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal dune scrub and on serpentine slopes.

Range In State: Northern California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This rare, native, perennial species of the Mustard Family has cream colored flowers with 4 petals. The linear leaves are broad with sharp, deep teeth on singular or few-branching stems that stand 2-18 inches tall. Blooms March to June.


Wild Radish

Origin Of Genus Name: Raphanus is a Greek word meaning "appearing rapidly," referring to the seed germination.

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed areas.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This exotic biennial of the Mustard Family is from southern Asia and has lavender, pink, yellow or white flowers with 4 dark-veined petals. The elliptical and deeply lobed basal leaves and alternating upper leaves have coarse hairs. Wild Radish can reach 3 feet in height and has a taproot somewhat like that of a radish with a distinctive radish odor and taste. Blooms spring and summer.


 

Hermit Thrush

Catharus guttatus

Natural History: The Hermit Thrush eats insects, spiders, earthworms, and much fruit. It nests on the ground or in shrubs. It prefers moist habitats.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in willow, scrub, oak, and ornamental areas.

Frequency: This species is common at the Presidio in all seasons but the summer.

Identifying Characteristics: The Hermit Thrush has a prominently speckled breast and gray-brown back. It has complete whitish eye ring and a relatively long, slender beak.

 

French Broom

Origin Of Genus Name: Genista is from the Latin words planta genista, from which English Plantagenet monarchs took their name.

Presidio Locations: Found in disturbed areas.

Range In State: Throughout coastal California.

Description: This exotic perennial shrub from the Mediterranean region has clusters of 4 to 10 yellow flowers at the end of green stems. The leaves contain 3 leaflets and the hairy seed pods resemble those of other members of the Pea Family. French Broom can reach up to 10 feet in height and is highly aggressive, having the ability to thrive in both disturbed and undisturbed areas.


Soap Plant

Chlorogalum

Presidio Locations: Found throughout the Presidio on coastal bluffs, grasslands and dunes.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This native perennial species has a highly branched cluster of white flowers that opens in the evening and closes during the day, indicating pollination by moths. The wavy edged, narrow leaves spring from a white, fleshy bulb with a brown, fibrous outer coat. Blooms June to August.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone made shampoo by mixing the pounded stems and bulbs in a little water. The juice obtained from the root was used as a purgative, drinking it freely, along with sea water. Brushes were made from the fiberous bulbs. The Pomo cooked and mashed the bulbs, making a glue for brooms and to attach feathers to arrows. They also used the green leaves pricked into the skin to form tattoo marks.

 

Seaside Paintbrush

Castilleja

Presidio Locations: Found on brushy slopes throughout the dunes and dry banks near coast.

Range In State: California coast.

Description: This native perennial species has showy, bright red to yellow flowers with spout-like "petals" which are really modified leaves enclosing the tubular flowers. This bristly and sticky plant is a green-root parasite (grows into the roots of its host to steal water and nutrients) and is often found growing with Coyote Bush, Sagewort and Mock Heather. Blooms March to July.

California Native Uses: The Miwok stored dried seeds for use in winter. Indian Paintbrush has been used by the Maidu for food, as a diuretic and to cure bronchial problems. Tubatulabal boiled the entire plant and has applied it daily as a wash to treat rashes caused by poision oak. Kawaiisu used Indian Paintbrush to treat skin problems.

Seep Monkey Flower

Origin Of Genus Name: Mimulus is Latin for "little mime or comic actor," for the face-like corolla.

Presidio Locations: Found in freshwater seeps and other wetlands.

Range In State: Throughout California.

Description: This native, perennial shrub has smooth to hairy leaves on long stems with clusters of smaller leaves that are sticky with a resin that protects against desiccation. The yellowish-orange, tubular flowers have red dots that differentiate it from Sticky Monkey Flower. The name 'Seep' -- a wetland that forms in areas where groundwater discharges to the land surface-- comes from the flower being found in the understory of riparian plant communities, where soil is often moist. Blooms March to October.

Native Californian Uses: Miwok boiled the leaves for food and used a decoction for treating skin sores. The Kawaiisu used a decoction of the stems and leaves as a steambath for chest and back soreness.

 

Coastal Onion

Origin Of Genus Name: Allium is Latin for "garlic."

Presidio Locations: Serpentine bluffs and serpentine grasslands.

Range In State: Northern California to Northern central coast.

Description: This native perennial species has long cylindrical leaves and re-sprouts from an underground bulb each year. Deep red-purple flowers are clustered in groups of 5-30. Blooms April to June.

Native Californian Uses: The greens and bulbs were eaten raw or cooked by the Pomo and the Kashaya.

 

Beach Evening Primrose

Origin Of Genus Name: Camissonia is named after L. Adelbert von Chamisso, French born German botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found on sandy slopes, flats, and coastal dunes.

Range In State: Southern California coast.

Description: This low growing, perennial is a non-local subspecies was brought here from southern California in the early years of habitat restoration and is now considered an invasive weed in the Presidio, displacing the native subspecies. Beach Evening Primrose can flower during any part of the year and has short-lived, small, bright yellow 4-petaled flowers. The stem has gray oval leaves and a large root system (the roots can grow as big as a fence post.)

 

Yellow Sand Verbena

Origin Of Genus Name: Abronia is Greek for "graceful."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal foredunes.

Range In State: California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native, perennial forms a dense prostrate mat on open sand dunes. It has long fleshy leaves and deep roots. The Russian naturalist Ivan Eschscholtz described and named this species from a specimen he collected in 1824 while visiting the Presidio. Blooms June to September.

Native Californian Uses: The Ohlone made a tea used for typhoid fever. The Diengueno used Sand Verbena to make a diuretic.

San Francisco Lessingia

Lessingia germanorum

Origin Of Genus Name: Named after C.F. Lessing, German specialist in Asteraceae plant family.

Presidio Locations: Found only in inland dune areas on the Presidio with only five small populations known at this time.

Range In State: San Francisco Bay Area. The only population known of outside the Presidio is located in Daly City. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This rare and endangered, native annual has small, grayish, hairy leaves. The stem is reddish brown and branched. The flowers have funnel-shaped to tubular petals that are deep lemon yellow with a reddish brown band. Each plant can have from one to eighty flowers. Blooms August to October.

 

California Gull

Laurus californicus

Natural History: The California Gull is omnivorous, eating everything from garbage to invertebrates. It roosts in large groups along shorelines and landfills. It nests in open areas on islands between April and August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found in the ocean, bays, ponds, tidal sand and rocky areas, and around piers, pilings, and lawns.

Frequency: This species is considered common in the summer, fall, and winter months.

Identifying Characteristics: This gull can be distinguished by its medium-gray color, black wing tips with white spots and greenish legs. It displays a red spot on its lower bill and in winter black as well.

 

Yellow-eyed Salamander

Natural History: This amphibian is primarily active at night during wet periods. It is highly dependent on precipitation. It tends to seek moist but not overly saturated soils.

General Distribution: This salamander is typically found in forested areas. A specimen has been recently identified near Mountain Lake.

Frequency: This animal is uncommon within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This species is distinguished by its orange belly and yellow eye patch. It has smooth skin, a swollen tail, and is a yellow-orange at the base of its limbs.


Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Natural History: The Great Horned Owl is a nocturnal hunter that preys on a variety of things ranging from birds and small mammals to lower vertebrates and insects. This owl nests in trees in cavities and abandon nests and occassionally on the ground. Its breeding season runs from February through July.

General Distribution: This species is found throughout the Presidio, particularly in forested areas, and uses the Presidio for breeding.

Frequency: The Great Horned Owl is common in the Presidio year-round.

Identifying Characteristics: This large owl is characterized by ear tufts and a white throat.

Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos

Natural History: The Mockingbird feeds on insects, earthworms, snails, and berries. It both perches and nests above ground level. This bird defends its breeding territories from mid-February to late September. The males can be heard singing loudly day or night in the spring and summer.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in oak woodlands, forests of willow and eucalyptus, and ornamental areas. It breeds on the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: This species is common all year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a grayish color that is darker above and lighter below. It can be noted for white patches on its wings and tail.

Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

Natural History: The Red-tailed Hawk can be seen soaring, perching, and pouncing on prey. It primarily forages in grasslands in the early morning and late afternoon. This hawk tends to roost in trees and creates nests of stick platforms typically in mature riparian habitats. This species is highly adaptable and defends its territory throughout the year. Breeding season runs from March through July.

General Distribution: This species is found in all areas of the Presidio, particularly in forested areas and annual grasslands. It breeds on the Presidio.

Presidio Birds main page

Frequency: This species is common in the Presidio year round.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird can be noted by its large broad wings and streaks across its belly underside. It is variable in color, but the black adults usually have red tails.

Townsends Big-eared Bat

Natural History: This mammal is active at night, particularly during the late evening hours. It flies slowly and has good maneuverability, allowing it to feed on moths and other insects. It roosts in caves, buildings, and tunnels, breeding there during the summer. It is easily disturbed at its roosting areas.

General Distribution: This species is rarely sighted at the Presidio.

Frequency: Currently, Townsend's big-eared bats are Species of Special Concern in California. This is the status below threatened.

Identifying Characteristics:

The clove-brown species of bat is distinguished by its extremely large ears, which are joined across the forehead. It has two distinguishable lumps on its nose.

California Alligator Lizard

Natural History: This species has a low requirement for water and is primarily active during the day. It tends to be active at cooler temperatures than other lizards. Its eggs are laid in June, and hatchlings are present from August through September.

General Distribution: Within the Presidio, this reptile is typically found in annual and serpentine grasslands, coastal scrub areas, dune scrub areas, forests, and developed areas.

Frequency: This reptile, unlike its relative, the San Francisco Alligator Lizard is uncommon within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: California Alligator Lizard is characterized by a brown, gray, or reddish color with dark stripes on its belly and dark crossbands on its back and tail. It has pale yellow eyes, a long tail, and red blotches on its back.


American Robin

Turdus migratorius

Natural History: The American Robin eats earthworms, caterpillars, snails, fruit, berries, and seeds. It nests on the ground or in shrubs. It prefers moist habitats. Breeding season is from early April to late August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in annual grasslands, all forests, lawns, and ornamental areas. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The American Robin has a red breast and gray back. It also has a yellow bill.

 

Red-throated Loon

Gavia stellata

Natural History: This bird feeds on fish by pursuing them and diving into the water, but it also eats invertebrates. It is commonly found resting on water. This species nests in the arctic.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in bays and the ocean.

Frequency: This animal is abundantly found during the winter and spring and uncommon in the summer and fall.

Identifying Characteristics: During breeding season this species is distinguished by its gray neck and head with brick-red throat patch. It has a slightly upturned bill and often tilts its head slightly up.

 

Valley Pocket Gopher

Natural History: This species is also know as Botta's Pocket Gopher. It is a solitary animal that inhabits subterranean tunnels in moist soil. It is active throughout the year, both during the day and night. This species subsists on roots, tubers, and certain aboveground plants. It breeds from November to April.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, the Pocket Gopher is found in areas of of annual and serpentine grassland, coastal and dune scrub, forests, and in lawns.

Frequency: This species is abundant in the Presidio and provides an important food resource for birds of pray, and carnivorous mammals.

Identifying Characteristics:

The pocket gopher is typically between 120 to 180 mm in length. It has large, exposed, yellow, incisor teeth. It is very variable in size and color but generally takes on a brown to black coloration. Another identifying characteristic is a single indistinct groove near the inner border of each incisor.

Western Harvest Mouse

Natural History: This small rodent is active year round and is primarily nocturnal. It is omnivorous but feeds primarily on seeds and some insects. This species nests on or slightly above the ground in tall vegetation. It breeds in all months but January through March.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, the Harvest Mouse is found in annual grassland areas, coastal and dune scrub, forests with blackberry thickets, and in Monterey Pine Monterey Cypress woodlands.

Frequency: This is an abundant species within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

This species is a pale gray to brownish color with a white to gray underside of body and tail.

Red-eared Pond Slider

Natural History: Red-eared Pond Slider is an introduced species at the Presidio.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found at Mountain Lake.

Frequency: This species is common at Mountain Lake.

Identifying Characteristics: This animal has an olive colored, dusky shell. It has a red to yellow colored stripe behind its eyes.


Hooded Oriole

Icterus cucullatus

Natural History: The Hooded Oriole eats insects, nectar and fruit. It frequently builds woven nests in palm trees.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in ornamental areas and around willow woodlands. It breeds in palm trees at the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is found here primarily in the spring and summer when it is uncommon.

Identifying Characteristics:

The oriole is characterized by its long, slightly curved beak. Males are an orange-yellow with a fairly large black throat patch. Females are a greenish yellow with no throat patch. Their belly is more yellow than that of the Bullock's Oriole.

Presidio Birds

The Presidio of San Francisco has one of the most diverse bird populations of any urban park in the world, with over 200 species having been spotted here. This diversity is owing to a number of factors, including its great variety of habitats that range from open water and protected bay, to rocky and sandy shoreline, to tidal marshes, coastal scrub, grasslands, mixed woodlands and ornamental areas. Since the Presidio lies on a major bird migratory route along the west coast, it also hosts a variety of transient birds that stop over to rest and feed on their journey to and from places as far away as South America and the Canadian arctic. This combination of factors makes the Presidio a birders paradise with different species to see throughout the year.

The bird diversity at the Presidio has changed over the years. When the Europeans arrived in the 1770s, the area was largely dune scrub with few trees. The planting of the Presidio's forest in the 1880s and 90s allowed the establishment of a much greater variety of forest dwelling birds. During the same period, the marshes along the bay were filled, both at the Presidio and throughout the Bay Area, leading to a decline in shorebirds and waterfowl. With the recent recreation of the tidal lagoon and marsh at Crissy Field those birds are now coming back to the Presidio. Egrets, Herons, Kingfishers and many other water birds are becoming commonplace once again.


Brewer's Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

Natural History: This species of blackbird feeds on insects and other invertebrates, as well as seeds and grains. It often takes cover in dense foliage, but also is seen resting on telephone poles and lines. Nests are built in dense foliage, on the ground, or in emergent vegetation in a variety of habitats. Breeding season runs from March to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found in areas of upland sand, annual grasslands, all forested areas, and all developed areas. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant throughout the year.

Identifying Characteristics: Males are iridescent black with yellow eyes and a purplish head. Females tend to be grayish with dark eyes.

 

Rock Dove

Columba livia

Natural History: The Rock Dove is an introduced species. It is also commonly known as the domestic pigeon. This bird eats waste, scraps, and seeds. It breeds from March to September.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in Eucalyptus Forests, on buildings, lawns, and roads. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The Rock Dove is gray with a white rump, two black bands on the secondary feathers, and a dark band on its tail.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Regulus calendula

Natural History: The Ruby-crowned Kinglet eats insects, other invertebrates, and fruits by hovering and snatching from the tree canopies. It nests in conifer twigs, hanging above the ground. Breeding season is from mid-May to mid-August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in coastal and dune scrub areas, all forest areas, and in ornamentals.

Frequency: This species is common in the summer and fall and abundant in the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: This is a tiny bird with an olive-gray above with an incomplete white ring around its eye and 2 pale bars across its wings. The male has a ruby crown. The species has a tendency to twitch.

 

Amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians are largely the unseen wildlife of the Presidio. Most species in these groups are uncommon or rare in the Presidio. Amphibians are most commonly found in riparian habitats or near ponds.

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

Natural History: This aquatic species feeds mostly on plant material. It rarely dives and tends to hide in dense, emergent vegetation. It is a monogamous species that tends to nest in hollows among reeds or grass from March to July.

General Distribution: The Mallard is found in ponds, streams, bay areas, marshes, and tidal rocky areas, where they breed.

Frequency: This animal is found abundantly during the winter, spring, and summer months.

Identifying Characteristics: This species has different identifying features between the males and females. The males show a glossy, green head and narrow white collar. They have a yellowish bill and orange feet. The females can be noted by a mottled brown with whitish tail. The females tend to emit loud quacks.

 

California Vole

Natural History: The California Vole feeds on grasses and sedges. It constructs burrows to live in. It is a species that breeds year round, producing an average of 4 to 8 young per litter.

General Distribution: Within the Presidio this species is found in annual and serpentine grasslands, coastal and dune scrub, forests with blackberry thickets or ferns, Monterey Pine, and Monterey Cypress woodlands.

Frequency: This species is abundant in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

The California Vole can be identified by its dark grayish to brown coat with a short bicolor tail and contrasting pale feet. Its typical size ranges from 120 to 140 mm in length.

European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Natural History: The European Starling is an introduced species in the Presidio. It eats invertebrates, seeds, fruits, and garbage, foraging in open habitats. It often roosts in large flocks. The Starling nests in cavities, crevices, nest boxes, outcompeting many native cavity nesters.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in annual grasslands, all forests, and all developed areas. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The European Starling is usually black in color with a glossy purple coat in the spring. It has a long, yellow bill. The bird takes on a speckled appearance in the winter.

Vagrant Shrew

Natural History: On the Presidio, the Vagrant Shrew is active year round, both during the day and night. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates. This species is found primarily in areas with deep ground cover. It nests in logs or stumps. Breeding season runs from January through May and October or November.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species may be found in annual grasslands and forests with blackberry thickets.

Frequency: This species is may occur in the Presidio. It has not been sighted in recent years.

Identifying Characteristics:

This species takes on a red-brown appearance in summer and appears virtually black during the winter. It is distinguished by dark feet.

Sharp-tailed Snake

Natural History: This snake tends to be a secretive slug eater. It is active undercover, particularly in the early spring and fall when it is warm and wetter.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species may be found in areas of streams, annual grasslands, and forests.

Frequency: This species may possibly occur within the Presidio, it has not been sighted in recent years.

Identifying Characteristics: This small snake is reddish-brown on top with two reddish stripes. The side of the body is gray, and it has black and cream crossbars on the belly.

Reptiles main page

Animals main page

Elegant Tern

Sterna elegans

Natural History: The Elegant Tern's diet primarily consists of small fish, which it dives for from above the water after hovering. It will occasionally scavenge for food. It is found near saltwater areas, where it hunts. This bird nests in shallow depressions in sandy substrate, typically within 60 feet of water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found along the coast, particularly off Crissy Field.

Frequency: This bird is common in the summer and fall.

Identifying Characteristics: This moderate-size tern has a long, orange beak, a short black crest.

Presidio Birds main page

Lizard Tail

Origin Of Genus Name: Eriophyllum is Greek for "woolly leaves."

Presidio Locations: Found in coastal scrub and bluff scrub.

Range In State: Throughout coastal California.

Description: Lizard tail, or Woolly Sunflower, has clusters of daisy-like yellow flowers. It is a mounding, coastal shrub that is highly drought, salt, and wind-tolerant. Fine white hairs appear on the stems, leaves, and bracts around the flower heads. A small dry fruit develops below the pappus, containing a single seed that is dispersed by wind or animals. Blooms May to November.

Native Californian Uses: Coast Miwok used the dried and ground seeds to make pinole, a ground meal. The Maidu and Miwok have placed Lizard Tail leaves on the body to relieve aches and pains.

 

Black Turnstone

Arenaria melanocephala

Natural History: The Black Turnstone forages along the shore by probing for invertebrates using its bill. It roosts in upland areas during high tide. Nesting in the Alaskan tundra, its migration peaks in August and April.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock.

Frequency: This species is common during the fall, winter, and spring seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: The Black Turnstone is a blackish colored shorebird with black legs. It displays a whitish belly.

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

Natural History: The diet of the Canada Goose consists of shoots, roots, and seeds of grasses and sedges, bulbs and berries, as well as invertebrates such as crustaceans, insects and mollusks. It is found near water, where it dabbles for its food. This bird typically builds nests on the ground near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio this species is particularly found near Crissy Marsh Mountain Lake. This species bred at Crissy Marsh in 2002.

Frequency: This species is common in all seasons except the summer.

Identifying Characteristics: This grayish-brown goose has a long, black neck and head with a prominent white chin strap.

Gopher Snake

General Distribution: This habitat generalist lives in all types of habitats throughout much of North America.

Frequency: This species is uncommon in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This snake has 33 to 66 light- to dark-brown or reddish, squarish blotches on its back. The background color is yellow, straw, tan or cream. Smaller dark markings are found on the animal's sides. A dark stripe runs from in front of the eye to the angle of the jaw. The underside is creamy or yellow, often with dark spots.


Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

Natural History: The Barn Swallow's diet primarily consists of insects, but it will occasionally eat berries and seeds. It prefers open country, especially near water. It plasters its mud pellet nests on ledges and walls of buildings or in cliff crevices, often in small colonies.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in all relatively open areas. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant in the summer, spring, and fall.

Identifying Characteristics: This species has a reddish brown throat and a buff to cinnamon underside, separated by a dark, incomplete neck band. The tail is deeply forked.

 

Belted Kingfisher

Cerle alcyon

Natural History: The Belted Kingfisher's diet primarily consists of small fish, which it dives for from above the water. It will occasionally eat invertebrates, lower vertebrates, and young birds and mice. It is found near water, where it hunts. This bird typically nests in small tunnels excavated in perpendicular banks.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found near water, particularly near Crissy Marsh, but also along the open coast.

Frequency: This species is common in all seasons except the summer.

Identifying Characteristics: This species has a long, pointed beak, a dark blue head and a white throat with a slate blue chest band. Females have a rust belly band and sides.

 

Forster's Tern

Sterna forsteri

Natural History: The Forster's Tern eats small fish, insects, aquatic invertebrates and frogs. This bird nests near water on the ground in depressions lined with grass, soil or shells. It frequents freshwater and saltwater marshes as well as ponds and lakes.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found along the coast, particularly off Crissy Field where it displays breeding behavior in the spring.

Frequency: This bird is common throughout the year at the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This moderately-small tern has a orange beak tipped in black. It has a black cap and nape.

 

Red Fox

Natural History: The Red Fox is an introduced species at the Presidio. It is essentially a nocturnal animal, but occasionally feeds during the day, and more at dawn and dusk. Red foxes mainly eat small mammals like rabbits, rats, and mice. If food is plentiful, they may kill more than they immediately need, and cache the extra food. This species has adapted well to urban areas, where their abundance and feeding habits can impact the remaining native species.

General Distribution: Introduced many places by hunting clubs, the red fox is now widespread across most of the United States. It likes mixed field and scrub areas and tends to stay away from heavily forested areas.

Frequency: The Red Fox is common in the Presidio.


Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata

Natural History: The Surf Scoter feeds primarily on mollusks, but it also eats fish and crustaceans, which are caught by diving. It can be found resting on open waters in flocks. It nests in areas of brush or trees near slow moving water from June to September.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in bays and the ocean.

Frequency: This animal is commonly seen in fall and spring and is abundant during the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of this species are black with white on the head or nape. The females are a dusky brown with light spots on the sides of its head.

 

Coyote

Natural History: It coyote frequents open scrub and herbaceous habitats, and may be seen in croplands. Also found
in young deciduous and conifer forest and woodland. This omnivorous species eats primarily small mammals such as mice, rats, ground squirrels, and gophers. It also eats some insects, reptiles, amphibians, fruits, and occasionally birds, their eggs and carrion. This dog hunts solitarily, in pairs, or in small packs in open habitats where it can chase down prey. The coyote adapts and adjusts rapidly to perturbations and changes of its environment and thus has found its way into urban areas.

General Distribution: The coyote is a common to abundant throughout the state and much of the continent. In the spring of 2003, at least one pair of coyotes was seen repeatedly in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is uncommon in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: The coyote is has reddish gray to brown fur. It is a medium-sized dog, much larger than a fox.


Western Skink

Natural History: This lizard is found mostly in open disturbed areas. It is secretive by nature but is fairly active under cover. Its diet includes a variety of insects.

General Distribution: In the Presidio this animal is found primarily in forests and in serpentine grasslands.

Frequency: This species is rare within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This lizard is typically a dull gray color. It has a broad brown strip down its back bordered by a thinner beige stripe and a dark stripe on its sides.


Great Egret

Casmerodius albus

Natural History: This bird sustains itself by feeding on small fish and other small vertebrates as well as invertebrates caught by stalking. It is found around both fresh and saltwater habitats. This species is the most cosmopolitan of the herons. It usually roosts and nests in colonies in trees near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found near freshwater, saltwater bays, and tidal areas, particularly frequenting Crissy Marsh.

Frequency: This bird is common throughout the year at the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This all white species has a very long S-shaped neck, orange bill and dark legs and feet. It is considerably larger than the Snowy Egret.

 

Dark-eyed Junco

Junco Hyemalis

Natural History: The Dark-eyed Junco eats small arthropods, seeds, and fruit. It uses a mosiac of forests and open areas. This species nests usually on the ground near cover and breeds from April to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, the Dark-eyed Junco can be found in annual grasslands, coastal and dune scrub, in all forest areas, on lawns, and in ornamentals. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring and summer and abundant during the fall and winter.

Identifying Characteristics: The Dark-eyed Junco has gray sides and back. Its tail is bordered with white.

 

Marbled Godwit

Limosa fedoa

Natural History: The Marbled Godwit forages by pecking and probing for invertebrates. It often feeds at night. This loosely colonial bird is often found in small flocks. It breeds in the the mid-west of Canada and the United States.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock.

Frequency: This species is abundant during the spring, winter, and fall seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This large, mottled brown sandpiper has a long, slightly upturned beak that is darker near the tip.

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

Natural History: The predatory nature of the American Kestrel is to pounce on its prey of small mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles rather than pursuing them. It often hovers while beating its wings. It tends to forage in open areas. It nests in cavities in trees, snags, cliffs, and buildings near to its foraging areas. Breeding season runs from April to August. The kestrel is also know as the sparrow hawk.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in forests where it breeds.

Frequency: This species is common in the Presidio during the fall, winter, and spring months.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has the appearance of a small swallow-like falcon with a reddish back/tail. It often appears with a black and white face pattern.

Common Raven

Corvus corax

Natural History: The Common Raven eats carrion, small vertebrates, insects, and nuts and caches its food. It ejects pellets like the American Crow. The raven roosts in colonies during the night. It nests on cliffs or in tall trees and breeds from mid-February into July.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found around tidal rocks, upland rock areas, and all forest areas. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: The Raven is very large in size, even more so than the crow. It is black with a wedge-shaped tail. Its nature is to flap and soar. Ravens display shaggy throat feathers.

 

Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Natural History: This bird sustains itself by feeding on small fish and other small vertebrates as well as invertebrates caught by stalking. It is found around both freshwater habitats and brackish marshes. This species usually nests in colonies near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, it can be found near freshwater, saltwater bays, and tidal areas, particularly frequenting Crissy Marsh.

Frequency: This bird is common throughout the year at the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This large heron is gray-blue in color and has a black stripe above its eye and a yellow bill. It is the largest of the herons.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Natural History: The Brown-headed Cowbird feeds on insects and other invertebrates, as well as seeds and grains. It often takes cover in dense foliage, but also is seen resting on telephone poles and lines. This bird lays its eggs in the nests of other species, especially warblers, finches, flycatchers, and vireos and displaces the young of those species. Breeding season runs from March to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found in all habitat areas. It is a nest parasite in the Presidio that is becoming increasingly common.

Frequency: This species is common to abundant in all seasons except winter.

Identifying Characteristics: Males are iridescence black with a brown head and dark eyes. Females tend to be grayish-brown with weekly striped breasts.

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus

Natural History: This bird forages for fish, mostly by diving and being able to stay underwater for about 30 seconds. It tends to rest and roost on offshore cliffs and on rocks, wharfs, and branches. It sometimes rests on water. Its takeoff is quite laborious. The nests are quite sensitive to disturbance and are found on rocky cliffs, slopes, and tall trees. Breeding season runs from April to August. This species is monogamous by nature and nests colonially.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in bays, the ocean, ponds, and tidal rocky areas.

Frequency: The Double-crested Cormorant is common throughout the year within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has the tendency to be an upright percher with a S-shaped neck and hook-tipped bill. Unlike its relative, the Brandt's Cormorant, this species displays an orange-yellow throat pouch. These birds tend to cluster in silent flocks, forming in geese-like patterns.

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Natural History: The House Sparrow is an introduced species to the Presidio. It eats primarily seeds, but also eats fruits and scraps. This species roosts in cavities and dense foliage and nests in holes in buildings, cliffs, and trees. It breeds in colonies.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in all developed areas and breeds within the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The House Sparrow is brown above, with a light underside, a black throat and gray crown with white cheeks. It is a loud, cheeping bird.

Coast Garter Snake

Natural History: This snake tends to be found near bodies of water where it is active during the day and frequently basks in sunny spots. Courtship occurs in the spring. The young are born in July and August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is mostly found in ponds, streams, springs, marshes, annual and serpentine grasslands, coastal and and dune scrub areas, and forests.

Frequency: This species may possibly occur in the Presidio. It has not been sighted in recent years.

Identifying Characteristics: This snake can be identified by its bright yellow dorsal stripe and reddish orange lateral stripes. The dorsal sides between the stripes are patterned reddish-orange with dark spots.


Heermann's Gull

Larus heermanni

Natural History: Heermann's Gull feeds on marine fishes, invertebrates, and scavenges material along shorelines, beaches, and offshore kelp beds. It breeds off the Mexican Coast.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in the ocean, bays, tidal sand areas, areas of tidal rock, and around piers and pilings.

Frequency: This species is common in summer, fall, and winter but uncommon during the spring.

Identifying Characteristics: Heermann's Gull can be noted by its dark gray color with a black tail, whitish head, and red bill.

 

Coast Range Newt

Natural History: In general, this amphibian tends to show little activity, preferring to take cover under rocks and logs. Its toxic skin facilitates its diurnal lifestyle. It deposits eggs on submerged vegetation and rocks.

General Distribution: This species is may occur within the Presidio near ponds, streams, annual grasslands, and all types of forests.

Frequency: This animal is rare within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: Identifying characteristics include a light brown upside and a yellow-orange belly. Its skin is may appear warty.


Animals

 

Amphibians & Reptiles
Amphibians and reptiles are largely the unseen wildlife of the Presidio. Most species in these groups are uncommon or rare, and snake sightings are almost unheard of. Reptiles are most commonly found in the forest or coastal scrub, although several species are found in riparian habitats or near ponds, where many of the amphibians are found.
 
Mammals
If you were here 300 years ago, you wouldn't believe all the cool mammals roaming around the Presidio.  The Europeans changed everything when they hunted with guns. Then the settlers replaced the dune scrub with non-native grazing grass for their domestic herds. As if that wasn't enough, a city eventually bumped up against the Presidio. That did it. All the Grizzly Bears, Tule Elk and even the deer disappeared.  Instead, familiar small urban mammals like raccoons and skunks abound. However, gray foxes are still holding out and even the coyote is back in the park. Please help protect these animals by not feeding them!
 

Birds
The Presidio has one of the most diverse bird populations of any urban park in the world, with over 200 species. This diversity is possible because of its variety of different habitats, from the open ocean to the protected bay. We have tidal marshes, coastal scrub, grasslands and mixed woodlands. Since the Presidio lies on a major bird migratory route along the West Coast, it is a welcome stop-over for birds coming in from as far away as the Arctic and South America. This combination of factors makes the Presidio a birders paradise with different species to see throughout the year.

Northwestern Pond Turtle

Natural History: This species lives along streams, rivers, lakes and ponds where it eats invertebrates and small fish.

General Distribution: This turtle ranges from Washington State to central California. In the Presidio, it is found at Mountain Lake.

Frequency: This species is moderately common at Mountain Lake.

Identifying Characteristics: This turtle has an low, dark olive to blackish shell with sections marked by inconspicuous radiating dots or lines. The head is dark in color.


Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

Natural History: The Ring-billed Gull dives for fish, catches insects in the air, and also feeds on vegetation, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, and garbage. It nests on open ground or near rocks from April to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in the ocean, bays, tidal sand and rock areas, and around piers and pilings.

Frequency: This species is considered common in the fall, spring and winter, and rare during the summer.

Identifying Characteristics: This gull can be distinguished by its medium-gray color with dark wing tips similar to the California Gull, except that it is smaller with a black ring encircling its bill and yellow-green legs.

 

Striped Skunk

Natural History: The striped skunk is primarily active at night and is omnivorous. It has strong scent glands. This species nests in dens located under buildings, rocks, wood piles or in burrows. It breeds from February through March. Its young are born in early May and follow their mother in single file in the early summer.

General Distribution: This species is especially in coastal and dune scrub areas, forests, buildings, and lawns.

Frequency: This is a common inhabitant in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

This mammal is typically from 33 to 45 cm in length. Its tail is typically 20 to 25 cm long. It has a black body with a white stripe beginning at the forehead and dividing into a "V" at the shoulders. The length and width of the stripe varies.

Arboreal Salamander

Natural History: This amphibian is found primarily in moist areas near permanent water. It is active nocturnally. As the environment dries during the summer months, it retreats to moist areas.

General Distribution: The arboreal salamander is found in annual grasslands, coastal scrub, and forested areas.

Frequency: This animal is uncommon within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This species appears as a plain brown with yellow spots and white below and a triangular head. Its toe tips are squarish and its tail is often coiled when at rest


Bullfrog

Natural History: The Bullfrog is an introduced species in the Presidio and is detrimental to native species.

General Distribution: This species can be found in ponds and streams and has been sighted at Mountain Lake.

Frequency: The Bullfrog is uncommon within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This is a large frog (9 - 20 cm). It has an olive, green, or brown body with dark bands on its legs. Its underside is a white-gray. It has a conspicuous eardrum with a fold of skin above.


Brandts Cormorant

Phalacrocorax penicillatus

Natural History: This bird sustains itself by feeding on small saltwater fishes caught while diving. Cormorants often congregate in flocks to herd fish. They communally roost on rocky headlands and do not linger in the water due to the fact that they lack oil glands to keep their feathers dry, in contrast to most other waterbirds. This species is active year round and is a colonial nester. Breeding season is from March to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found near ocean areas, bays, and tidal rocky areas.

Frequency: This bird is common throughout the year at the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This species has the tendency to be an upright percher with a S-shaped neck and hook-tipped bill. It displays a a dark throat pouch behind which lies a brown band across its throat. It's underparts are generally browner in color than the double-crested cormorant. Cormorants bodies are mostly underwater while swimming.

 

Virginia Opossum

Natural History: The Virginia Opossum is a nocturnal and omnivorous marsupial. It primarily eats carrion and insects, but fruits, berries and grains, green vegetation, earthworms, and fungi may also be important. It builds nests of leaves and other material in hollow snags, logs, rocks, piles of brush, or in the burrows of other animals. Its breeding season is January-February and June-July in California. This mammal is highly adaptable and very tolerant of humans.

General Distribution: Native to the southeastern U.S., this species was introduced to California in 1910. It has since spread throughout the state east of the Sierra. This species may occur in all parts of the Presidio.

Frequency: Within the Presidio this species is uncommon.

Identifying Characteristics:

The opossum can be distinguished large, rat-like body with moderately long gray to silver fur. It has a long scaly, prehensile tail.

Long-billed Curlew

Numenius americanus

Natural History: The Long-billed Curlew mostly forages for invertebrates but may also eat toads, and eggs and nestlings of other birds as well as some berries. It breeds in the interior west.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock and by saltwater bays.

Frequency: This species is not found at the Presidio in the summer and is uncommon during the spring, winter, and fall seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This very large, mottled, brown sandpiper has a long, strongly downcurved beak and lacks the strongly striped crown of the Whimbrel.

 

Killdeer

Charadrius vociferus

Natural History: The Killdeer forages by running, stopping, and lunging at insects and other invertebrates. It is especially fond of feeding on grasshoppers and beetles. It is monogamous by nature and nests solitarily from February to August in ground depressions. This species tends to vigorously defend its nests.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of ponds, tidal sand areas, and upland rock areas. These are the areas where they tend to breed.

Frequency: This species is common year round.

Identifying Characteristics: the Killdeer is distinguished by a golden-red rump and two black bands across its breast. This species has a tendency to be noisy, especially in flight.

 

Reptiles

Reptiles are seldom seen at the Presidio. Most species in these groups are uncommon or rare in the Presidio and snake sightings are almost unheard of. Reptiles are most commonly found in the forest or coastal scrub, although several species are found in riparian habitats or near ponds, where many of the amphibians also are found. The list below includes species that have been reported here in the past 15 years.


Western Grebe

Aechmophorus occidentalis

Natural History: This bird feeds on fish by pursuing them and diving into the water, but it also eats invertebrates. It is commonly found resting on water. This species nests colonies from May to August. It breeds in large expanses of water with nest platforms often floating in emergent vegetation. It can often be found in mixed flocks with Clark's Grebe.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in bays and the ocean.

Frequency: This animal is abundantly found during the fall, winter, and spring months.

Identifying Characteristics: This species is distinguished by its long, white, swanlike neck. It displays a dark/black plumage on its upper side and is white below.

 

California Toad

Natural History: The California Toad reproduces in standing water. It is generally nocturnal except in the spring when it is also active during the day. The males of the species tend to become territorial during the breeding season between January and July. Its level of activity is highly dictated by temperature.

General Distribution: This species can be found in ponds, streams, springs, and marshes.

Frequency: This animal is uncommon within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This toad is characterized by a dusky, gray or greenish color with dark blotchy warts and a white dorsal stripe.


Townsend's Warbler

Dendroica townsendi

Natural History: The Townsend's Warbler generally feeds on insects and spiders. It breeds in the Pacific Northwest. Its preference for habitat is that of mature forest stands.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in all forests and in ornamental plant areas.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring, fall, and winter seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird's identifying characteristics are a black and yellow head with a black crown, cheek patch, and throat. It has a yellow underside and striped sides.

 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

Natural History: The Red-shouldered Hawk tends to forage along the edges of wet areas. Its diet includes a variety of things ranging from mammals to insects which it usually searches for from a perch. This hawk is territorial by nature and takes cover and nests in riparian forested areas. Its breeding season runs from February through July.

General Distribution: This species is found in all forested areas of the Presidio and uses the Presidio as a breeding ground.

Frequency: The Red-shouldered Hawk is common in the Presidio year round.

Identifying Characteristics: This is a medium-size hawk with broad tail and wings. It is characterized by rufous color shoulders and a rusty color underside. Its tail is marked by narrow, white bands.

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

Natural History: The Song Sparrow feeds mostly on seeds, but it also forages for small invertebrates and berries at times. It seeks out low, dense vegetation, usually near water. It nests on the ground. The males can be seen and heard singing from perches. This species breeds in the spring and summer seasons.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found along streams, springs, marshes, coastal scrub, forests with willow and blackberries, and around ornamentals. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The Song Sparrow has a breast streaked with a dark central spot. Its body color varies from a pale to dark brown.

Dune Gilia

Gilia capitata chamissonis

Origin Of Genus Name: Gilia is named after Felipe Gil, a Spanish botanist.

Presidio Locations: Found on coastal dunes, particularly in Lobos Creek Valley and dunes around Crissy Marsh.

Range In State: Northern California coast. The Presidio is the type locality for this species.

Description: This native, annual species is one of the Presidio's rare plants. The leaves are distinctive, dissected and may be reddish in color. Its clusters of small flowers are bright blue-violet. Blooms May to August.


Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

Natural History: The Whimbrel moslty forages for invertebrates but may also eat some seeds, berries, and leaves. It breeds in the arctic.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock.

Frequency: This species is common during the spring, winter, and fall seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This large, mottled, light brown sandpiper has a long, downcurved beak and a prominently striped crown and eye line.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Sitta pygmaea

Natural History: The Pygmy Nuthatch feeds on insects, spiders, and pine seeds. It caches it seeds. This species nests in cavities in snags or stumps and breeds from mid-April to mid-August. It tends to guard its territory.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in forests, especially mature stands of conifers. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant all year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This species is a small bird with a gray-brown cap and a white spot usually on the back of its neck. It has the tendency to walk upside-down on tree trunks.

 

Mew Gull

Larus canus

Natural History: The Mew Gull finds its food by diving or foraging on water. It rests on mudflats, beaches, and calm water. It is also found on turbulent, coastal waters. This species breeds in Alaska and Canada.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in the ocean, bays, ponds, tidal sand and rock areas, and around piers and pilings.

Frequency: This species is considered common in the spring and fall and abundant during the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: This gull can be distinguished by its medium-gray mantle and back. It has a short rather slender, unmarked, greenish-yellow colored bill and a darker back than related species.

Hutton's Vireo

Vireo huttoni

Natural History: The Hutton's Vireo eats insects and fruits. It nests in oak and pine woodlands where it builds in the forks of twigs.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in oak and willow areas, and in ornamentals.

Frequency: This species is common throughout the year at the Presidio and it nests here.

Identifying Characteristics: This is a small bird with an olive-gray above with a white ring around its eye and 2 pale bars across its wings. It can be distinguished from the similar Ruby-crowned Kinglet by its larger size, thicker bill, and by the lack of a dark area below the lower wing bar.

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

Natural History: This bird sustains itself by feeding on small fish and other small vertebrates as well as invertebrates caught by stalking. It also stirs the mud with its feet to flush out prey. This species is found around both freshwater and brackish habitats. It roosts and nests in colonies in trees near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found near freshwater, saltwater bays, and tidal areas, particularly frequenting Crissy Marsh.

Frequency: This bird is common at the Presidio in the fall and spring.

Identifying Characteristics: This all white species has a medium long S-shaped neck, black bill with yellow around the eyes, and dark legs with yellow feet. It is smaller than the Great Egret.

 

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

Natural History: The White-crowned Sparrow eats seeds as well as insects and plant parts. It forages on open ground adjacent to scrub cover. It nests above in shrubs above ground. It breeds from March to August. This species of bird is monogamous.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of annual grassland, coastal and dune scrub, all forested areas, lawns, and among ornamentals. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant throughout the year.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a striped black or brown and white crown and a gray throat.

 

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Natural History: The Northern Flicker primarily eats insects, especially ants, but also feeds on seeds acorns, and nuts. It forages on the ground more than any other North American woodpecker. It nests and roosts in cavities and is dependent on snags.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in areas of oak and conifer forests and in scrub and grasslands. It is known to have nested near El Polin Spring in recent years.

Frequency: This species is common to abundant in all seasons, but summer, when it is rare.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a barred brown back and spotted underparts, and a black crescent bib. The males have a red stripe under the eye. Orange feathers are present under the tail and wings.

 

Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans

Natural History: The Black Phoebe eats insects, then regurgitates pellets. It takes cover in riparian vegetation, nesting in cliffs, buildings, bridges, and other shelters near water. It constructs its nests out of mud and plants. Nesting season is from March to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found around streams, springs, ponds, willow forests, ornamentals, buildings, and on telephone poles. It breeds within the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The Black Phoebe has a black head, breast, and upper portion, and a contrasting white belly. It has a tendency to wag its tail and a distinct song of a strident fi-bee (rise), fi-bee (fall).

 

Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

Natural History: This species of woodpecker primarily eats insect larvae but also feeds on seeds and berries. It forages on trunks and branches from 9 up to 65 high. It nests and roosts in cavities and is dependent on snags. This species breeds from late March to early September.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in areas of willow, eucalyptus, live oak, and forest snags. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a white back and a small bill. The males of the species often have a red coloration on their heads.

 

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia atricapilla

Natural History: The Golden-crowned Sparrow eats plant foods, foraging on the ground. It seeks cover in shrubs and nests on the ground adjacent to its cover. This species breeds in Canada during the summer and forms mixed flocks.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in annual grasslands, coastal and dune scrub areas, all forested areas, on lawns, and amongst ornamentals.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring and fall and abundant during the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: The Golden-crowned Sparrow can be identified by its slate-gray color with a white bill. It has a tendency to dabble and dive.

Scrub Jay

Aphelocoma coerulescens

Natural History: The Scrub Jay eats nuts, fruits, insects, bird eggs (and the young) and often caches its food. It takes cover in scrub and woodlands and prefers willow habitats on the Presidio. This bird nests in twig cups in dense foliage from early March to mid-August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in forests of willow, eucalyptus, live oak, and all developed areas. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The Scrub Jay has no crest. It has a blue head, wings, and tail. Otherwise, it is a brownish-gray with a white throat necklace.

 

American Coot

Fulica americana

Natural History: The Coot tends to forage underwater mostly on submerged aquatic plants, but it also feeds on insects and small fish. It builds large, woven platform nests among emergent vegetation over water. Although territorial by nature, this monogamous species is gregarious. Its breeding season runs from April to September

General Distribution: In the Presidio, coots can be found in bays, ponds, marshes, and tidal sand areas where they breed.

Frequency: This species is common year round.

Identifying Characteristics: This species can be identified by its slate-gray color with a white bill, and its tendency to dabble and dive.


American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

Natural History: The American Crow eats nuts, fruits, insects, bird eggs, nestlings, carrion, garbage - after which it ejects pellets. Nesting in somewhat of colonies, it builds nests of stick platforms lined with mud and vegetation, usually in trees. Nesting season is from March to July. This species is very gregarious in winter.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in all forested areas and lawns. At present it has the potential to breed in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This crow is completely black and large in size, but not as large as the similar Raven. It does display a purple gloss in the sun. Crows are gregarious by nature.

Pine Siskin

Carduelis pinus

Natural History: The Pine Siskin feeds primarily on seeds and plant parts, but may also eat insects. It tends to take cover in trees but nests in dense foliage. It breeds from April to September.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in all forests and in ornamental plants.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring and summer and abundant in the fall and winter seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird's identifying characteristics are its brown streaking and forked tail. It shows a touch of yellow in its wings and tail.

 

Mammals

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the late eighteenth century, the San Francisco peninsula was home to a wide variety of mammalian species, including grizzly bears and tule elk.  Since then, physical changes to the environment--along with hunting and urbanization--led to the decline of the larger mammals. Today, the mammalian fauna of the Presidio is primarily composed of typical urban dwellers including squirrels, skunks and raccoons. A recent addition to the Presidio's wildlife is the coyote, several of which have been seen in the area recently.

Raccoon

Natural History: The raccoon is primarily nocturnal and omnivorous. It builds dens in places such as hollow trees, logs, and burrows. Its breeding season runs from January through March. The offspring are born between April and May. This mammal is highly adaptable and very tolerant of humans.

General Distribution: This species is widespread on the Presidio grounds. It is frequently found in annual grasslands, coastal and dune scrub, forests, buildings, lawns, and rocky tidal areas.

Frequency: Within the Presidio this species is common.

Identifying Characteristics:

The raccoon can be distinguished by its speckled brown body. Another characteristic is its black mask and ringed tail. Its size runs from 50 to 100 cm in length, including the tail.

Pacific Ringneck Snake

Natural History: This snake prefers moist cover and open, rocky areas. It eats worms and smaller reptiles and amphibians. It lays eggs from April to July that hatch from August to October. Hibernating individuals often aggregate in groups.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this reptile can most commonly be found in annual grasslands and forests.

Frequency: This species is may possibly occur in the Presidio. It has not been sighted in recent years.

Identifying Characteristics: This snake has a slender body. Its coloration can be olive, brownish, blue-gray, or almost black with a dark head and a yellowish neck band. Its underside is a yellow-orange to red color with a spotted belly. It displays red on its tail's underside when disturbed.


Sanderling

Calidris alba

Natural History: The Sanderling forages at sand beach wash zones by following the waves and probing for small invertebrates. It nests in areas of the tundra. It is a winter resident from August through May. It is potentially territorial.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in tidal areas.

Frequency: This species is common all seasons except summer when it breeds in the arctic.

Identifying Characteristics: The Sanderling appears as a small, pale sandpiper with a flashing white wing-stripe. It displays a snowy white below, gray above, and is dark shouldered. It is often seen chasing waves.

 

Gray Fox

Natural History: The Gray Fox is native to the Presidio. Its tendency is to be shy and nocturnal. It feeds on small mammals but also eats large amounts of fruits, nuts, grains, grasshoppers and crickets, beetles, moths and butterflies, carrion, and small amounts of herbage. This species stays away from urban areas and avoids human contact, unlike its relative, the Red Fox, which is an introduced species that will venture into urban areas.

General Distribution: The gray fox is widespread across most of the United States except northern plains and Rockies. It tends to stay in forested areas.

Frequency: The Gray Fox is uncommon in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: The Gray Fox has a gray fur with black tips on its back and tail. It tands to have red fur on its sides and sides of neck. It has a smaller white bib under the throat than the Red Fox.


Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

Natural History: The Red-winged Blackbird eats seeds and grains that grow in wetland areas. It roosts in moist open habitats and nests in dense emergent wetlands above ground or on the ground. Breeding season runs from March to late July.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found in marsh, stream, annual grassland, and willow forest areas, where it also breeds.

Frequency: This species is common throughout the year.

Identifying Characteristics: The male of this species is black with red shoulders. The female is brown and stripped below.

 

Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis

Natural History: The Brown Pelican's diet consists of fish which it often hunts by taking plunging dives from above the water. It prefers open marine coast lines. Nests are built in colonies on offshore rocks and islands that lack mammalian predators.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found over water in coastal areas.

Frequency: The Brown Pelican is common to abundant throughout the year.

Identifying Characteristics: This large, grayish-brown bird is characterized by its large grayish bill with throat pouch. It often flies in small groups low over the water.

 

Santa Cruz Garter Snake

Natural History: This snake is generally aquatic, eating fish and amphibians. It tends to be active diurnally and basks by river banks.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species may be found in ponds, streams, springs, and marshes.

Frequency: This species is may possibly occur in the Presidio. It has not been sighted in recent years.

Identifying Characteristics: This snake is variable in color. It has a visible mid-dorsal yellow stripe and a bright yellow throat.


Hoary Bat

Natural History: The Hoary Bat emerges late in the evening to feed primarily on moths. Male Hoary Bats live in the southwestern U.S. during the summer, while the females live mostly in the northern and eastern part of the continent. In fall, the females join the males in the southwest and both sexes migrate to Mexico, lower California, and South America for the winter. It typically roosts in forests.

General Distribution: This bat ranges widely throughout the southern half of Canada and southward throughout continental U.S.

Frequency: This species is moderately common at the Presidio in the summer.

Identifying Characteristics:

This larger bat is distinguished by its brown fur with heavily frosted white tips. Its ears short and rounded with black, naked rims.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Dendroica coronata

Natural History: The Yellow-rumped Warbler generally feeds on insects and on berries some, particularly in the winter. It breeds in to the north of the Presidio.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in all environments.

Frequency: This is the most common warbler at the Presidio. It is common to abundant in the spring, fall, and winter seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a yellow rump, yellow patch on sides and a yellow crown patch. The throat is yellow except in fall. The sides and head tend to be a dark or slate gray and the wings sides are striped.

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

Natural History: This bird sustains itself by feeding on small fish and other small vertebrates as well as invertebrates caught by stalking. It usually feeds at dawn, dusk and at night. This species is found around both freshwater and brackish habitats. It roosts and nests in colonies in trees or shrubs near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found near freshwater, saltwater bays, and tidal areas, particularly frequenting Crissy Marsh.

Frequency: This bird is moderately common at the Presidio throughout the year.

Identifying Characteristics: This is stocky heron with a short neck. Adults have a black crown and back and creamy color neck. Juveniles are a speckled brown and lack black markings.

Broad-Footed Mole

Also known as the California Mole, the Broad-Footed Mole is a subterranean tunnel dweller that favors areas of moist soil. This animal is active year-round and is most likely to be seen after a rainfall. The broad-footed mole eats insects and other invertebrates just below the ground surface. A highly territorial creature, the mole breeds from February to May; its young emerge from their nests in June.

The broad-footed mole is typically 13 to 15 centimeters in length and has a naked nose. It is virtually black in color and, as the name suggests, has broad front feet. It is difficult to distinuish from the Pacific Mole. In the Presidio, this species is found in annual grasslands, forests, lawns, and riparian areas. It is most often seen near Lobos Creek and Inspiration Point.


House Mouse

Natural History: This small rodent is active year round and is primarily nocturnal. In addition to houses, it may live in groceries, factories, or agricultural buildings where grain is stored. It also lives outdoors in old fields, pastures, or road sides. This species can be a pest by getting into food, and gnawing walls or clothing. It is omnivorous.

General Distribution: A native of Asia, the house mouse now occurs throughout the world in habitats associated with humans. In warmer climates, feral house mice may live in the wild, particularly in fields and other open environments. In the Presidio, the House Mouse is found in and around buildings.

Frequency: This is an abundant species within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

This species is brownish with a long scaly tail and large, naked leaf-like ears.

California Slender Salamander

Natural History: This amphibian is active in wet areas primarily at night. It prefers moist substrate with surface objects for cover. Its eggs, which hatch in the spring, are deposited underground or in moist substrate.

General Distribution: This salamander can be found in all woodland habitats and coastal scrub.

Frequency: This animal is common within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: Identifying characteristics of this animal are its slender body with very short limbs. It has four toes on each foot. It also has a narrow head and body with dark network (speckled) on its belly. Its color is variable.


Orange-crowned Warbler

Vermivora celata

Natural History: The Orange-crowned Warbler feeds primarily on insects, but it will also eat a variety of plant parts. It nests on the ground in dense, brushy habitats. It breeds from mid-April to mid-July.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in dune and coastal scrub areas, all forested areas, and around ornamentals. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common in the summer, spring, and fall; but it is uncommon in the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: The Orange-crowned Warbler has a dull olive-green upper and a yellow-green underside. Sometimes it is seen with a slight orange crown. It displays no color bars on its wings.

 

San Francisco Alligator Lizard

Natural History: This lizard species requires more humid conditions than its related species, the California (Southern) Alligator Lizard. It is active during the day. Young are born in August and September. Some populations gregariously hibernate.

General Distribution: In the Presidio this species is found primarily in annual and serpentine grasslands, coastal and dune scrub, forests, developed and riparian areas. It has been spotted in the Lobos Creek Area.

Frequency: This animal is common within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

The San Francisco Alligator Lizard is typically a tan, olive, or golden brown body with large, dark blotches or irregular cross-bands on its back. It is fairly small in size and has dusky sides.

Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus griseus

Natural History: The Short-billed Dowitcher mostly forages for invertebrates but may also eat some seeds of aquatic plants. It breeds in the the arctic.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock, saltwater bays and freshwater lakes.

Frequency: This species is moderately common during the spring, winter, and fall seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: This medium-size, mottled, brown sandpiper has a moderately long, straight beak and a prominently striped crown and eye line.

 

Surfbird

Aphriza virgata

Natural History: The Surfbird sustains itself by feeding on marine invertebrates. It roosts away from high tide. It breeds in alpine tundra habitats.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in rocky tidal areas.

Frequency: This species is common during the fall, winter, and spring seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: The Surfbird is a dark-gray shorebird that has a broad black band on a white tail.

 

Allen's Hummingbird

Selasphorus sasin

Natural History: Allen's Hummingbird eats nectar and insects. It takes cover in trees and shrubs. It nests above ground often in shaded areas. It breeds in woodlands and dense scrub from mid-February to early August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in dune scrub areas, Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, and Monterey Cypress Forests and around ornamental plants. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common in the summer, spring, and fall.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of the Allen's Hummingbird have green backs and orange-red throats. The females have green backs with reddish sides and tail bases.

 

Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

Natural History: The Western Meadowlark feeds on insects and other invertebrates, as well as seeds and grains. Nests are built on the ground. Typically found in small flocks.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species is found in areas of scrub and grasslands.

Frequency: This species is moderately common in the spring, fall, and winter. It is not present in the summer. It is not known to breed at the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird is characterized by mottled to speckled brown back and sides with a yellow belly and throat and dark brown to black throat band. The top of the head has dark brown stripes.

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Natural History: The Turkey Vulture eats carrion of all sizes. It finds dead animals by both sight and scent. This communal roosting bird is not known to breed in the Presidio.

General Distribution: This bird is found throughout the Presidio, often soaring above the forest or more open lands.

Frequency: This species is moderately common throughout the year in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This very large bird, when seen from below, has dark, two-tone wings with silver-gray flight feathers and black leading edges. The head is bald and red, and the beak is white. Its nature is to soar with seldom a flap of the wings.

 

Fox Squirrel

Natural History: The Fox Squirrel is a non-native introduced from the East. It feeds on nuts. This species nests high in trees. Its breeding season runs from January through February and also from August through September.

General Distribution: Within the Presidio this species may be found in Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pine woodlands and also in mixed forests habitats.

Frequency: This is a rare inhabitant in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

In general, this rodent has a rusty-yellow body with a pale yellow orange belly. It is noted for its bushy tail with tawny tips.

Willet

Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Natural History: The Willet forages by pecking and probing for invertebrates. It roosts at high tide or in upper wetland areas. This territorial bird uses grass-lined hollow nests created in emergent wetlands near open water. It breeds from April to September. The Willet is a monogamous animal and semicolonial breeders.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of tidal sand and rock.

Frequency: This species is abundant during the spring, winter, and fall seasons.

Identifying Characteristics: The Willet has a gray color and can be identified by its stocky bill. Its legs are a dark color. It displays flashy wing patterns in flight.

 

Bushtit

Psaltriparus minimus

Natural History: The Bushtit feeds on insects, spiders, and berries. It builds nests above the ground of delicate plant material and spider webs. The Bushtit is frequently found in small groups that chirp as they make their way through the forest and shrubs, seeking out open areas within the dense understory. Breeding season runs from February to early August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in forest and ornamental areas. This species breeds on the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: This species is common in the Presidio year round.

Identifying Characteristics: The Bushtit is a small bird with a pale underside, a gray back, brown cheeks, and a longish tail. It is gregarious.

 

California Towhee

Pipilo crissalis

Natural History: The California Towhee forages on seeds, insects, and some fruits, particularly on open ground near brushy cover. It nests in the lower branches of shrubs and trees above ground. It creates nests of twigs, grasses, and flowers. It breeds in early April to early August. It tends to move into areas after logging, farming, and urbanization activities.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in coastal and dune scrub areas, lawns, and areas with oak, willow, eucalyptus, blackberry, and toyon trees.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The California Towhee has a dull gray-brown color with a longish tail. The tail coverts underside is a pale rusty color. It has a striped, yellowish throat.

 

Anna's Hummingbird

Calypte anna

Natural History: Anna's Hummingbird feeds on nectar from a variety of flowering plants, small insects, and sap. It hovers and probes for nectar and gleans for insects. It takes cover in woodland and scrub habitats. It nests above ground in a variety of locations. It breeds from mid-December to mid-August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in coastal scrub and all forest areas. It breeds within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common all year.

Identifying Characteristics: This hummingbird has a red throat. The males also have a red crown and the females are a dark green above.

Roof Rat

Natural History: The Roof Rat, also know as the black rat, is omnivorous and largely nocturnal. Only where populations are relatively high does one see them frequently in the daytime. They inhabited groceries, warehouses, feed stores, poultry houses, and grain warehouses. On the farms they lived in barns and corncribs. They may live near the ground, but usually they frequent the attics, rafters, and crossbeams of the buildings.

General Distribution: Probably originating in Asia, the Roof Rat now lives throughout the world, particularly in areas around seaports. In the Presidio, this species typically can be found within blackberry thickets and buildings. It has been sighted at El Polin Spring and Inspiration Point in the Presidio.

Frequency: This is an uncommon species within the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics:

This rodent has two color phases: brown and black. It is distinguished by its relatively large size and long, naked tail.

Wilson's Warbler

Wilsonia pusilla

Natural History: The Wilson's Warbler feeds primarily on insects, much like the Orange-crowned Warbler. It takes cover in the low canopy layers or forests or shrubs. It nests near water or wet areas on ground or slightly above ground where it breeds from late April to August.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in coastal scrub areas, forested areas, and around ornamentals. It has the potential to breed within the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring, summer, and fall and is uncommon during the winter.

Identifying Characteristics: Wilson's Warbler is olive-green above, similar to the Orange-crowned Warbler, and a yellow color below. A yellow stripe can be noted across the eye. The males of the species have a black cap.

 

House Finch

Carpodacus mexicanus

Natural History: The House Finch forages for seeds and other plant parts in areas with nearby escape perches. It roosts and nests in protected areas. This is a monogamous species that nests beginning in March.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in annual grassland areas, coastal and dune scrub, all forested areas, and all developed areas. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of the House Finch are brownish in color with a red breast, forehead, stripe over its eye, and lower back. The females are brown with streaks and have a shortish beak.

 

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Natural History: The Mourning Dove eats seeds, grasses, and sometimes insects. It nests in trees where it breeds from January to September.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in annual grasslands, coastal scrub areas, all forest areas, on lawns, amongst ornamentals, and on roads. It breeds in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is abundant all year.

Identifying Characteristics: The Mourning Dove is brown in color and is slimmer than the domestic pigeon (Rock Dove) with a pointed tail bordered with large spots. It tends to emit three, "cooo" sounds in a row.

Lesser Goldfinch

Carduelis psaltria

Natural History: The Lesser Goldfinch eats seeds and insects. It takes cover in trees and shrubs. This bird likes to be near water.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of coastal and dune scrub; oak, eucalyptus, and willow forests; lawns and around ornamentals.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring and summer, uncommon in the fall and winter. It nests in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of this bird are small in size with yellow chest and underside and black wings, back, tail, and top of head. The females are a dull yellow-olive color with black wings and wingbars; they differ from the American Goldfinch female in having white undertail coverts.

 

American Goldfinch

Carduelis tristis

Natural History: The American Goldfinch eats seeds and insects. It takes cover in trees and shrubs and is commonly seen flocking, often assembling on telephone lines. This bird usually nests near water in riparian trees. It breeds from April to July.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in areas of coastal and dune scrub; oak, eucalyptus, and willow forests; lawns and around ornamentals.

Frequency: This species is common in the spring and summer, uncommon in the fall and winter. It nests in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of this bird are small in size with yellow and black wings, tail, and forehead. The male differs from the Lesser Goldfinch in having a yellow back. The females are a dull yellow-olive color with black wings and wingbars and are difficult to tell from the Lesser Goldfinch.

 

Western Gull

Laurus occidentalis

Natural History: The Western Gull is omnivorous like the California Gull. It is a scavenger but also feeds on fish and invertebrates. It nests on ground in rocky terraces and cliffs.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in the ocean, bays, ponds, tidal sand and rock areas, and around piers, pilings, and lawns. It is a potential nester in the Presidio.

Frequency: This species is considered abundant in the summer, fall, and winter months and common during the spring.

Identifying Characteristics: This gull can be distinguished by its dark back and wings. It has a white underneath with pinkish feet.

 

Western Fence Lizard

Natural History: This is the most common reptile in California. It is primarily diurnal, seeking out basking and perching sites. It feeds on terrestrial invertebrates. The males defend territories in the spring, and the young hatch between July and September. On occasion, hibernating individuals aggregate in groups.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this reptile is most commonly found in annual and serpentine grassland areas, forests, streams, coastal scrub areas, and developed areas.

Frequency: This lizard is fairly uncommon in the Presidio.

Identifying Characteristics: This lizard is characterized by a black, gray, or brown body with a blotched pattern. It has blue on the sides of its belly, and the males have a blue throat. The rear of its limbs are a yellowish-orange.


Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Parus rufescens

Natural History: This species feeds on seeds, fruits, insects, and spiders found high up in trees. It takes cover in forest areas. The chickadee and nests in old tree cavities by constructing nests of moss, fur, and feathers. Breeding season is from mid-March to July.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this bird is found in all forest and ornamental areas. This species breeds on the Presidio grounds.

Frequency: The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is abundant in the Presidio year round.

Identifying Characteristics: This bird has a black head with white cheeks. It has a chestnut brown back and sides.

 

Greater Scaup

Aythya marila

Natural History: The Greater Scaup dives primarily for mollusks and other aquatic invertebrates but also feeds on aquatic plants, especially in freshwater environments. In the winter it can be seen in small to large flocks. It nests in depression in mash grass in the arctic.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in salt and fresh water environments.

Frequency: This animal is commonly seen in the fall, spring and winter; it breeds in the arctic in the summer.

Identifying Characteristics: The males of this species have a black head and chest and white underside. The females have a dark head with a white patch in front of the bill, and a rusty color chest and dusky brown body. The bills are bluish. The head is more smoothly rounded than that of the Lesser Scaup.

Snowy Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus

Natural History: The Snowy Plover forages at sand beach wash zones by running and pecking to scare up small invertebrates and fish. May be loosely colonial.

General Distribution: In the Presidio, this species can be found in tidal areas.

Frequency: This species is rare in the winter, spring and fall. It is absent in the summer. The Pacific Coast population of this species is federally listed as endangered.

Identifying Characteristics: The Snowy Plover is a small shorebird with a short bicolor beak (except in winter when it is all dark), pale gray above and white below with a dark band on the sides of the neck.

 

Serpentinite

Serpentinite is a rare rock type that is most often developed in subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is subducted under another. The serpentinite at the Presidio is probably made from rock scraped off the bottom of ocean crust that is found east of the subduction zone. These deep ocean crust and upper mantle rocks were then altered by pressure and hot fluids that circulated through them in the subduction zone and on their way to the surface. They are now at the Earth's surface because the region has experienced uplift after subduction ceased, and because these altered rocks are now lighter than surrounding rocks and are therefore rising to the surface.

Since it is derived from mantle material, the chemistry of serpentinite is unlike that of most rocks in the earth's crust. Serpentinite rock is mostly composed of a mineral called serpentine. This mineral is low in potassium and calcium, both of which are plant nutrients, and also contains high levels of potentially toxic elements such as magnesium, chromium, and nickel. Plants that live on serpentinite are adapted to survive in these unusual chemical conditions.

Because serpentinite outcrops form small isolated areas of unusual soil chemistry, endemic plants adapted to these chemical conditions, and the microclimates of a particular outcrop, often evolve there. Several of the Presidio's endangered plant species (Presidio clarkia and Raven's manzanita) are endemic species adapted to the conditions developed on the serpentinite outcrops here.

Mélange

Mélange is a mashed-up mixture of rocks, mixed and crushed in a subduction zone. Zones of mélange lie between large areas (miles across) of more coherent rocks of similar type (called terranes) that form larger-scale mixture of rocks that is the Franciscan Complex. Smaller blocks of oceanic crust and sediments and continental marine rocks are mixed together in the mélange and encased in extremely sheared rock that is typically altered to clay.

Life on the Plates' Edge

The Earth's crust is composed of about 20 large plates. These plates move about atop a slowly roiling mantle which has the consistency of thick molasses. The Presidio area is located on the edge of two of these crustal plates, the North American and Pacific plates. This marginal location is responsible for the rugged terrain, periodic earthquakes, and the unusual types of rock exposed here.

The Presidio lies on the North American Plate, but the boundary with the Pacific Plate, the San Andreas fault, lies only five mile west of the Pacific shoreline at the Golden Gate. The Pacific Plate is moving northward at the same speed that your fingernail grows (1 inch or 2.5 cm a year). The rocks of the Presidio started rising out of the ocean only 4 million years ago, when a small shift in plate motion caused pressure to increase along the plate margin at a left bend in the San Andreas fault. In contrast, the San Francisco Bay lies on a stable or slowly down-dropping area formed between the San Andreas and Hayward faults, both of which are zones of slip between the North American and Pacific plates. Major earthquakes occur several times each century on these or less well-known faults in the San Francisco Bay Area; releasing strain built up between the creeping plates. These earthquakes destroyed the original adobe Presidio on several occasions and led to the near destruction of San Francisco in 1906.

Geologic Setting

The San Francisco Bay forms an exceptional natural harbor that for Native Americans was an ideal home for millennia. The ideal harbor that the bay presented caused the Spanish to established a "presidio" here at the end of the San Francisco peninsula.

The formation of the the rocks that underlie the Presidio took place earlier ... a lot earlier. Like tens of millions of years earlier.

The geology you see around San Francisco is the result of forces along the Pacific and North American plates. Today, the Pacific Plate is slowly creeping north past the North American Plate, forming the San Andreas fault system. San Francisco Bay was created by movement on these faults about 650,000 years ago.

However, the local geologic history goes back even further ... long before the San Andreas became so famous, or even was formed some 28 million years ago. The rocks that underlie the Presidio are 100 million to 200 million years old. Our old rocks were the result of a tectonic plate movement called subduction. Subduction means one plate moves under or "subducts" under an adjoined plate.

During subduction, pieces of ocean crust and marine sediments were broken up and added to the edge of North America, along with some mantle rock altered to serpentinite. These rocks form the Franciscan Complex, which in the Presidio is largely made up of serpentinite, like that found on the coastal bluffs at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge (seen above).

Resting on these old rocks are sediments of the Colma Formation, dating back a mere 125,000 years. This was a time when sea levels were higher than even today, during a warm interglacial period. The Colma is locally covered by sand dunes blown in as sea level rose following the last glacial period.

Graywacke Sandstone

Graywacke sandstone is the product of underwater landslides that carry sand, silt, rock fragments, and plant and animal debris off of the continental margin and rapidly deposit them in deep ocean environments. Graywacke is associated with subduction zones, where sediments are being shed off a continent at high rates. Little sorting of mineral types, rock types, or particle size occurs before deposition of these rocks; hence their other name, "dirty sandstone."

 

Basalt

Basalts are a type of volcanic rock and are the most common crust rock. Volcanic rocks are extruded above land or the seafloor, resulting in very fine-grained textures. Basalts have less silica and more iron than other volcanic rocks and tend to be black in color. The Franciscan Complex contains pieces of oceanic crust that include basalts erupted at mid-ocean ridge and island arc settings in the Pacific.

Many times these Franciscan basalts have been metamorphosed by hydrothermal activity into a greenish rock known as greenstone.

 

Geologic Thrusts From The Past

The San Andreas fault system is a relatively new geologic feature in the Bay Area; only forming within the last 28 million years. Older rocks in the area formed when the tectonic plate underlying the Pacific Ocean plunged under the North American Plate at a subduction boundary. The unusual rocks of the world-famous Franciscan Complex, named at San Francisco and underlying the Presidio, formed at this plate boundary. As the Pacific Ocean crust was thrust under the North American Plate, the Franciscan Complex formed from oceanic rocks that were scraped off of the subducting plate and churned into continental sediments derived from the North American Plate.

This process forms a mixture of rocks (mélange) composed of blocks of oceanic crust (basalt and greenstone) and overlying sediments (chert, limestone, and shale) mixed with submarine landslide deposits (graywacke sandstone and shale) shed from the North American continent and with pieces of metamorphic and mantle rock (usually altered to serpentinite), which were forced to the Earth's surface. The larger, more intact blocks in the Franciscan are called terranes, such as the Marin Headlands Terrane, which also underlies some of the Presidio. Each terrane has its own unique geologic history.

The Colma Formation

The Colma Formation blankets the Franciscan Complex locally in the Presidio. The Colma is mostly comprised of sandy deposits laid down between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago, during the last major interglacial period.

The origins of the poorly consolidated Colma sands are unclear, but they appear to represent shallow bay-to-dune, and valley-fill debris deposits. The formation extends under the San Francisco Bay and may be found as high as 500 feet above sea level.

High sea levels, produced when much of the ice on the continents melted, allowed shallow marine rocks to be deposited on parts of the San Francisco Peninsula at that time. Apparently the rocks are mostly of shallow bay origin below the 200 foot elevation contour and are valley slope-debris at higher elevations.

The environmental implications of these rocks deserve further study.

Chert

Highly folded bedded chert is a characteristic rock of the Franciscan Complex. The folding is largely due to deformation produced as the oceanic sediments were scraped off the subducting Pacific Plate and accreted to the North American continental margin at the subduction zone. In the Franciscan Complex, chert is a silica-rich rock formed from the altered shells of microscopic radiolaria, which slowly rained down onto the ocean bottom. Bedded chert is only developed in deep ocean settings, where few mud particles from the continents are present to dilute the silica. Chert is also typically formed under areas of high productivity in the oceans, which promotes the growth of radiolaria relative to other types of plankton. The thin beds or layers may be due to changes in oceanic silica productivity associated with the Earth's orbital cycles. The red color reflects the how much oxygen was present when the rock formed.