Nicole Netherton, Executive Director of Travis Audubon, spent time with Studio 512 to talk about spring bird migration, which is, as she describes it, “birders’ Christmas,” because it’s such an exciting time of the year!
Check out Travis Audubon’s bird blog to see what species are arriving now. Spring migration season officially runs from March to June, but the height of activity for Central Texas will be in April/May. In March, some winter species are leaving the area to fly north, while other birds, specifically the Golden-cheeked warbler, are beginning to arrive from Mexico.
Nicole says, “The Golden-cheeked warbler is a migratory bird that nests only in 33 counties in Central Texas. Every Golden-cheeked warbler is a Native Texan: they are ONLY born here, nowhere else in the world. The birds have been on the endangered species list since 1990.
“Their special requirement is habitat found in the Texas hill country: Ashe juniper (so-called ‘cedar’) bark that strips easily for nest material, and the insects that live on oak trees and other hardwoods for food. The disappearance of their habitat is the main reason why they are endangered. Without the trees they need to build nests and feed their babies, they cannot successfully reproduce.
“They spend the winter in the mountains of southern Mexico and to east-central Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. They migrate back to our area in mid-March to pair up and build their nests. We’ve already received confirmation that they’ve begun arriving in Central Texas for 2023!
“The males are VERY vocal when they are trying to attract a mate. They sing their ‘A-song,’ which kind of sounds like a buzzy version of ‘La Cucaracha.’ Listening for this song in March and April is a great way to find the birds.
“Travis County, the City of Austin, and other groups including Travis Audubon participate in a land conservation initiative called the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, a network of 33,000 acres set aside to protect the Golden-cheek, the Black-capped Vireo (another migratory songbird), and several other unique and threatened species in our ecosystem.
“Golden-cheeks are regularly reported at Wild Basin, Westcave Preserve, and other great nature spots, but my favorite place to find them is at Baker Sanctuary in Leander, a 700-acre Travis Audubon preserve set aside as habitat for the Golden-cheek.”
In an effort to reduce light pollution for migratory birds, Travis Audubon encourages “Lights Out, Texas!” from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., March 1st-June 15th each year. Learn more about how to help online.
Learn more about how to get involved – and start birding today – at TravisAudubon.org.