Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Some RGV Residents Have Backyard Parrots

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
Red-crowned Parrot

Red-crowned Parrot

This is Passport to Texas

It may surprise no one that the Rio Grande Valley is home to a native parrot species. What may astound you, though, is to find one in your yard.

They’re going to come to fruiting trees. When acorns are in season in the fall, they’ll really hit those. If you have a platform bird feeder, you might get parrots coming to your platform bird feeder for sunflower seeds.

Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says the native Red-crowned Parrot makes itself at home in urban settings; readily building nests in abandoned “real estate.”

They really like dead palm trees. The kind that there’s just a trunk standing, they’re no more green fronds, and it’s very brittle. The golden fronted woodpecker comes in and excavates a cavity and uses it to raise a family; well the next year, a parrot might use it. A parrot can’t really excavate like a woodpecker, but he says,’hey, I just need to make this a little bigger, and I’ll use it.’

If you live in the Rio Grande Valley and have a dead or dying palm in your yard (that doesn’t pose a safety threat), leave it for the birds. It’s good for them and nature tourism.

Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen–all have city ordinances where you cannot mess with the birds. And one reason is the nature tourists from all over the world come to the valley to see several unique birds, and the red-crowned parrot is usually near the top
of the list.

Learn more about Texas birding opportunities on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Red-crowned Parrots–a Texas Native

Monday, August 8th, 2016
Red-crowned Parrot

Red-crowned Parrots, Photo credit: Brad McKinney

This is Passport to Texas

If you live in any of the urban areas of Texas, you’ve probably seen large colonies of the green and gray colored bird known as the monk parakeet. You might think they are native to Texas, but they’re not.

And they were escaped birds that have done very well. But what’s very neat, is if you go a little farther south into the Rio Grande Valley, we have a native parrot, that’s green and has a little red on the forehead, called the Red-crowned Parrot.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And that bird [the red-crowned parrot] is a native species with a very small global range that is from south Texas all the way to parts of northeast Mexico.

Cliff says you’ll find the native red-crowned parrot in the Rio Grande Valley. And they may be closer than you think.

They’re highly urbanized. That’s where a lot of the green space is. A lot of the fruit that they’re eating in backyards. Seed feeders and so forth. They’re really thriving well in south Texas.

We’ll have more about this charismatic native parrot and its tendency to dine and nest in the backyards of Rio Grande Valley residents.

Meanwhile, explore the unique and beautiful regions of Texas with our nine interactive Great Wildlife Trail Maps! Find them on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show. Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Save Birds, Save the World

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
Birding in Texas

Birds and humans need the same things to live; spend time getting to know them.

This is Passport to Texas

The Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds, signed in 1916, between the US and Great Britain–which signed for Canada–paved the way for conservation of all migratory birds.

All birds out there, except our upland game birds are covered underneath this act and this convention. It includes songbirds, doves, ducks, cranes… And it includes nearly all the birds that you see on the landscape.

Shaun Oldenburger is a migratory game bird biologist with Parks and Wildlife. Grassroots conservation efforts have been ongoing since the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the Convention, also known as the Migratory Bird Act, that meaningful protections were put into place.

A lot of these laws came forth in the 20th Century, but these ideas have been around a long time. A lot of folks now are engaged in bird conservation; it’s more out there. It’s more, say, in your face. But there are a lot of groups out there doing a lot of good work. And a lot of this is spawned from 100 years ago from this convention.

Oldenburger says birds enrich our lives. We share the planet with them, and as such, we also share that which makes life possible.

We depend on water. We depend on air. We depend on resources. The same as birds. So, if folks start thinking about walking out of their house in the morning and hear birds calling–they can make that connection: we are all here, we’re all depending on the same things, and birds play an integral part of our world.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

100 Years of the Migratory Bird Treaty

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, Image: US Fish and Wildlife Service

This is Passport to Texas

This year is the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain for the Protection of Migratory Birds–also called the Migratory Bird Treaty.

That was signed by Great Britain for Canada at the time–in August of 1916–where that was a protection for all migratory birds between Canada and the United States.

Shaun Oldenburger, a migratory game bird biologist with Parks and Wildlife, says as early as the 1860s grassroots efforts evolved to develop game laws for birds.

There became this knowledge that birds cross political boundaries, and that they needed protection in both wintering and breeding locations. This primarily happened due to some droughts that were occurring, some habitat loss that was occurring during the earliest part of the 20th century. And so, some very smart people and some very proactive individuals got together and decided that we needed to protect these birds both on the breeding and wintering grounds.

It was that understanding of natural laws that set the stage for the Convention and man’s laws.

The idea of the convention is that we need this holistic protection for these birds across their lifecycle. I think it’s really interesting that as long ago as a hundred–and even more than a hundred years ago–people were thinking about conserving species, when I think that a lot of us consider it [conserving species], sort of, a new idea. Yeah. It’s amazing. In fact, a lot of the bird conservation work we’ve had has really spawned in the last 30 or 40 years. But, the premise–in the state of Texas and beyond the boundaries in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and japan–was established in the 19th Century.

We’ll talk more about the Migratory Bird Treaty tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV – Owls Underground

Friday, July 29th, 2016
Burrowing Owl

Hey! Outta my burrow, you skunk!

This is Passport to Texas

Birds don’t get much cuter than the burrowing owl. And you won’t have to stay up past your bedtime to see one.

One of the great things about these owls is [unlike most owls] they’re out during the day; they’re active day and night.

The week of July 31, get to know this small sandy colored owl with long legs during a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Alan Fisher produced a story that looks at how this species, threatened and endangered in some part of North America, survives its dwindling habitat in El Paso.

So, they’re a species of concern here because of habitat loss. Burrowing owls don’t tend to dig their own burrows from scratch. They will occupy burrows left from prairie dogs or ground squirrels or other burrowing animals. So, as those animals get pushed out burrowing owls lose their habitat as well.

Fisher also talks with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Lois Balin, who creates artificial owl nest borrows fitted with video surveillance systems.

Having the cameras underground, gives the biologists a lot of new tools. It’s pretty awesome.

Not surprisingly, says Fisher, the cameras are revealing much about the hidden lives of burrowing owls, from the number of eggs and nestlings, to prey items, and even visitors.

The skunk discovery is the rather astonishing discovery. Skunks are going into the burrows and occupying them, and in some cases preying on the owls.

To find out how the burrowing owls fare, tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of July 31. Check your local listings.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.