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Endangered birds are nesting again in Orange County

Irvine Company’s habitat restoration has attracted the ‘least Bell’s vireo’ back from Mexico.

IRVINE, Calif. (April 11, 2016) — A small bird that nearly disappeared from California in the 1980s is nesting again in Orange County willow trees, thanks to Irvine Company habitat restoration efforts.

Each spring, “least Bell’s vireos” arrive from Mexico. Barely 5 inches long, they fly 2,000 miles in search of wooded creek beds to mate and raise their young during the summer.

Once they were common throughout California. But by 1986, their numbers dwindled to 291 breeding pairs in the state and only one in Orange County. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed them as endangered.

In 2002, Irvine Company began restoring portions of a three-mile swath of the San Diego Creek from Jeffrey Road to Bake Parkway in Orange County. So far, it has restored more than 60 acres of the vireo’s favorite habitats: willow riparian forest and mulefat scub.

Within four years, more than 175 pairs of vireo were counted in Orange County. Each year, more return. They arrive in March and leave in August.

If you walk along parts of the San Diego Creek Trail this summer, keep an eye out. You may see an endangered species that’s making a comeback.