Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Monarch Malaise

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Habitat loss along its migration route may be one reason the Monarch butterfly is in decline. While feeding on nectar, Monarchs pollinate wildflowers along their route, which benefits our ecosystem.

There are two primary ways that habitat supports pollinators.

Johnnie Smith is Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation Education Manager.

And one is, the adult pollinators oftentimes feed on nectar of flowers. So, flowering plants that are a food source for the pollinator is very important. But also, is the food source that the pollinator’s larvae rely on as they’re growing up and becoming an adult. And so, that is just as important as the flowering plants that support the adults.

For Monarchs, native milkweed is an important plant. By cultivating them in our yards, along with other nectar and larval plants, we can all play a part in their survival.

There is no effort that is too small to be counted worthy. And there’s no spot of land that is too small to contain pollinator habitat. So, we really want to empower everybody—that they can make a difference. Right where you stand. Right where you live—you can create pollinator habitat, and help turn around this negative trend with the monarchs.

Tomorrow: the Pollinator Bioblitz, an event to build awareness to help all pollinators.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Winter Birding Hot Spots in Texas

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
Green Jay /Chara Verde (Cyanocorax yncas)

Green Jay /Chara Verde (Cyanocorax yncas)

This is Passport to Texas

Birders in the know travel to south Texas in winter.

Wow. The Mecca down there is The Valley. And the three or four counties along the Rio Grande are just the powerhouse for winter birding in Texas.

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

Birdwatchers from all over the country – really all over the world – are going there to see birds that are stacked up and wintering in big number, because it’s very mild down there. Cold snaps are very unusual and that’s why there’s a lot of agriculture – like citrus that doesn’t handle freezes very well at all. But, where there is remaining thorn scrub habitat or riparian woodland that can be just really excellent birding in the wintertime.

Shackelford says while the Rio Grande Valley is “the mecca” when it comes to sheer volume and varieties of overwintering migratory species in Texas – it’s not the only place.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series, and funds diverse conservation projects in Texas.

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

A Good Time for Birding in Texas

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
A fine vantage point for birding.

A fine vantage point for birding.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas is a birder’s paradise almost any time, but certainly in winter, and Texas Parks and Wildlife’s non-game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford knows why:

We are on the receiving end for a lot of our continent’s breeding birds that have to winter in mild climates; water birds that can’t handle water that freezes over – and we don’t have a lot of that in Texas especially the farther south you get.

Migratory species begin flocking to Texas in fall, and come to be our winter birds.

In the fall we get a lot of shorebirds we don’t see in the summer months that have bred up in the tundra. Then come your woodland birds – a lot of the vireos, warblers, tanagers… start pouring through in October. A lot of the raptors [that don’t stay, they only pass through]; things like Broadwing Hawks, Swaisnons Hawks, Mississippi Kites –they’re pouring through up until October. Then the sparrows really pour in starting in October and November. So, really by mid-November, most things are in place – where they’re going to be – for the next several months.

We tell you where some of those places are on tomorrow’s show.

The Wildlife restoration supports our series, and funds diverse conservation projects in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

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.