Did you know? January 5th is National Bird Day! Nicole Netherton, Executive Director of Travis Audubon, spent time with Studio 512 to talk about what makes Central Texas such a great place for birding.
Nicole says, “Central Texas both as a great place for all-the-time species as well as special migratory species, since we are situated right in the middle of the ‘Central Migratory Flyway.'”
Winter is also a great time of the year to go birdwatching! Fewer leaves on the trees and mild temperatures make for a great way to see our native – and migratory – birds.
Even though there are hundreds to choose from, Nicole picked a few “all-the-time” species to keep and eye out for:
- Northern Cardinal
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Great-tailed Grackle (Fun fact: the Common Grackle is much less common in this area, so you’re more likely to see the Great-tailed Grackle, with its iridescent wings!)
Migratory species that are a treat to see include:
- Golden-cheeked Warbler
- Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
- Painted Bunting
Nicole says, “The Golden-cheeked Warbler (GCWA) is a migratory bird that nests only in 29 counties in Central Texas. Every Golden-cheek is a native Texan! The males arrive around mid-March and begin establishing territories in the Hill Country. The warblers need mature Ashe juniper bark that strips easily for nest material and the insects that live in the canopy of oak trees for food. The females arrive around the end of March, and egg laying begins in early April. By the end of July, the warblers fly south for the winter to the mountainous areas of southern Mexico and Central America.
“The main cause for the decline of the Golden-cheek is the loss of breeding and nesting habitat. It was federally listed as an endangered species in 1990 and was added to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s list of endangered species in 1991. Because of its endangered status, the Golden-cheek was among several plant and animal species included for protection under a regional habitat conservation plan called the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP) in 1995. The primary goal of this plan is to assemble and manage over 30,000 acres in northwestern Travis County, called the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) system, to protect viable populations for the species addressed in the plan. Travis Audubon has committed its 715-acre Baker Sanctuary to the BCP system and is one of several managing partners in the BCP.
“The best time to hear and see a Golden-cheeked Warbler is when they arrive on their nesting grounds in March — listen for a buzzy song from the males that sounds a little like La Cucaracha!
“The best way to get involved with Travis Audubon is to sign up for our emails and join us for a bird walk — any season or level, you’re welcome to bird with us.”
Learn more about how to get involved – and start birding ahead of the February migration season – at TravisAudubon.org.