Come and learn about the native plants and animals that reside in the natural habitats at Rincon. Rincon offers a short walking trail that allows you to enjoy the nature around you. Whether you are on the walking path or at home you can still learn about our wildlife and native plants.
Our featured birds are permanent residents of our area. Learn about their characteristics, behaviors and their Luiseño name. For our native plants, we have provided the common name, Luiseño name, and examples of some of their traditional uses.
Next to the common names you will see the Luiseño names, and the phonetic spelling. Click the play button to hear how to pronounce these Luiseño words.
The Luiseño language has its own alphabet and symbols that represent specific sounds that do not occur in the English language. In some of the Luiseño names you will notice this $ symbol. The $ sound resembles the English s except that the tip of the tongue is curled back to make a different sound. This ‘ symbol is not used as a punctuation mark like in English. In Luiseño, it sounds like a break in the voice similar to that of a glottal. When letters are doubled or underlined the sounds have to be “dragged out”, similar to a long vowel sounds in English. Also, please keep in mind that Luiseño was not a written language. You might encounter different spellings of the same word depending on the source.
Whether you are close by or far away you can learn about our local birds, native plants and the Luiseño language.
Hummingbird / Tishmal / TISH-mull
The Anna’s Hummingbird, named after Anna de Belle Massena, the 19th Century Italian Duchess, is one of a few hummingbirds that does not migrate and is a year round resident of Rincon. Their feathers are grey and green overall. Males have a magenta throat and crown that can appear black depending on how the light reflects and absorbs off their feathers. These little birds have a very long tongue that allows them to lap up nectar from flowers similar to how dogs drink water. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell and rely on their vision to find food like flowers, small insets and feeders.
Scrub Jay / Wi ‘kasmal / WEH-khs-mull
Scrub jays have royal blue feathers on their head, wings, and tail. With a grayish brown body and light gray underbelly. The scrub jays blue feathers are the result of light reflection not blue pigment. The feathers absorb different wavelengths similar to how water droplets absorb and reflect light to create a rainbow. We see blue because these feathers absorbed all other wavelengths except blue. The scrub jay eats insects and fruits during the summer, acorns and nuts during the winter. The scrub jay will occasionally steal acorns from other jays and acorn woodpeckers. They are very secretive with their food and will look around to make sure other birds are not watching. If the local acorn crops are inadequate, they will abandon their nesting grounds for the winter and return in the spring
House Finch / Yaawyal / YAH-why-all
These small songbirds have brown bodies with streaks of white and brown on their sides and tail. Males will have a red head, throat and portions of the tail and chest. House finches are very active during the day. You will see them in small groups or couples flying from tree to tree or perching on any natural or fabricated surface. The house finch is a very versatile bird that can successfully survive in urban areas and natural habitats for up to 10 years. They thrive in most areas due to their adaptive nature and expansive diet of seeds, plants, bugs and berries.
Woodpecker / $oola / sh-OOL-a
Acorn Woodpeckers have black bodies with a white underbelly and black streaked chest. Their most identifiable characteristics are a red cap and yellowish white forehead and throat. These very social birds live and gather acorns in family groups. You can see the acorn woodpecker on trees and utility poles creating holes to store their acorns and other nuts. According to Cornell Lab, a single granary tree can contain about 50,000 acorns and other nuts. Acorn woodpeckers and other birds that rely on acorns are more vulnerable to climate change since they require a thriving oak habitat.
Prickly Pear Cactus / Naavut / NAW-vuut
Pearly pear cacti grow in dense clumps spreading several feet wide and have flat, round, green pads and white spines. The pads have two different kinds of spines, large white spines and small spines called glochids that are short and hair-like. The pads are actually the stems of the plant and the spines are modified leaves that protect the cactus. Luiseños harvested the pads early to avoid mature spines. During the spring, bright yellow flowers bloom on the stems and fruit grows from the pollinated flowers. By summer, we will have round edible fruit, the cactus apple.
Juncus / $oyla / SHOY-la
Juncus is a grass-like plant that grows well in moist to wet soil but can survive during fluctuating water condition and drought. Juncus has smooth, upright stems that have beautiful variations of brown and green colors. Basket weavers use these natural variations to create intricate patterns and designs. In preparation for basket making, the weaver gathers, dries, splits, and sizes the juncus to the desired lengths. The weaver repeats this process multiple times depending on the size of the basket and intricacy of the design. The diversion of San Luis Rey River and climate change have drastically effected gathering areas. Accessibility to gathering sites and traditional basket weaving materials has become exceptionally difficult.
Black Sage / Qaanavat / KUU-nah-vat
Black sage has leaves at its base and long stems with dozens of dense cluster. These clusters produce purple flowers that attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. Black sage seeds are gathered and used in traditional dishes. Traditional remedies use black sage to aid and relieve respiratory ailments. Black Sage is the most common sage in California. Unfortunately, wild black sage populations are dwindling due to loss of habitat and intrusion of non-native grasses.
White Sage / Qaa‘$il / KAH-shill
White sage has silver-gray green leaves and white flowers with small lavender pieces. The flowers attract bees and other pollinators. White sage has various traditional uses. Luiseño hunters rubbed white sage on their body to mask odors. This gave hunters the ability to get closer to their prey undetected. White sage is also used to aid and relieve respiratory ailments. Luiseño still use this and other traditional remedy.