The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo is a growing habitat reserve located in South Orange County. Over time The Nature Reserve will grow to include over 20,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo lands, inclusive of The Richard & Donna O’Neill Conservancy. This protected open space is managed by the Rancho Mission Viejo Land Trust, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to "preserve and enhance Reserve lands for ecological, educational, charitable, conservation, open space, scientific, and recreational uses."

Species Spotlight

The federally- and state-listed endangered least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; LBVI) is a small songbird (4 - 5 inches in size) with white eye rings, short, rounded wings, straight bills, and feathers that are dull olive-gray with paler shades of gray running to white along their bellies. LBVI are insectivorous and prey on a wide variety of insects including flies, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, moths, butterflies, and caterpillars. They forage mostly by plucking (gleaning) insects from leaves, twigs, and branches throughout the dense, lower level of the canopy, but will also feed on insects while in flight or hovering midair (hawking or flycatching).

As a neotropical migrant, LBVI fly nearly 2,000 miles every spring from southern Mexico up to southern California to breed before migrating back south in July. In southern California, LBVI typically breed in low elevation (>2,000 feet above mean sea level), willow-dominated riparian habitats that occur near or along watercourses and feature a dense shrub understory and multi-layered canopy. Vegetation communities commonly occupied by the species include southern willow scrub, cottonwood forest, mule fat scrub, sycamore alluvial woodland, coast live oak riparian forest, and arroyo willow riparian forest. Read more...

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