The Los Angeles Times looks today at the slow recovery of the California gnatcatcher, an threatened bird species that lives in the coastal sage scrub habitat found in Southern California.

The Times tracks the recovery of gnatcatchers found in L.A. County’s Palos Verdes Peninsula. In a summer survey there, ecologists found a 29-percent increase in the bird’s local population from 1994.

The Times’ Louis Sagahun reports:

For decades, the California gnatcatcher was regarded as the poster child for threatened natural habitat in one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation.

Throughout Southern California, particularly in Orange and San Diego counties, “gnatcatcher wars” stalled building projects for several years until agreements in the mid-1990s created preserves of tens of thousands of acres to protect the sage habitat where the birds nest almost exclusively.

By that time, however, the birds had been pushed out of two-thirds of their ancestral haunts by urban development and fires. Today, there are an estimated 2,900 California gnatcatchers left in the United States. In Los Angeles County, most of the birds reside on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

ROB DAVIS

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