Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Purple Martins

Thursday, January 7th, 2016
Various Purple Martin Houses.

Various Purple Martin Houses.

This is Passport to Texas

Purple Martins begin to travel across Texas this month, stopping to nest in birdhouses designed for them. They rely on our help because they’ve adapted to manmade “nest boxes” originally constructed from gourds by Native Americans.

Yet, opinions vary about how this relationship between bird and man began. Some believe native people placed gourds on the ends of their teepee poles to intentionally attract the purple martins. The birds provided insect control, and chased off creatures that tried to eat game left out to dry by the hunters.

Other martin enthusiasts believe the relationship was accidental. Native Americans hung gourds high off the ground to prevent rotting, and rodents from chewing holes in them. The clever rodents found and chewed holes in the gourds, just the same.

The purple martins, while hunting for a nesting cavity spotted openings in the gourds, and nested inside them. Living close to man meant fewer predators—and they did eat pesky insects. Their symbiotic relationship allegedly evolved from there.

Whatever the truth, today’s purple martin houses are either “gourd-type” single-family dwellings made from polyethylene, or “house-type” multi-family units made out of aluminum, or wood. And they remain a great bird to have around the house.

That’s out show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Outdoor Story: From Birds to Bugs

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Mike Quinn on Central Texas Gardener with Tom Spencer. Photo credit: KLRU-TV, Austin

Mike Quinn on Central Texas Gardener with Tom Spencer. Photo credit: KLRU-TV, Austin

This is Passport to Texas Outdoor Stories

Mike Quinn is an entomologist whose interest in bugs developed through his family’s interest in birds.

My parents were birdwatchers, and I had an interest in outdoors as a child. But it wasn’t until I was in my twenties… I was helping ornithologists at UT study painted buntings at McKinney Falls State Park, and walked around the bend, and we saw this large butterfly there sunning itself – absolutely gorgeous in the sun – and Anita Fauquier says, “I think that’s a giant swallowtail.” And it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was an epiphany for me that you could put a name on an insect. Why that was a revelation to me I still don’t quite don’t know, because I could identify birds by sight and sound, and plants and herps and etcetera. But putting a name on an insect was somehow a foreign concept. And I went home and I borrowed my mother’s butterfly field guide (which I haven’t quite returned yet), and just from that point on I started paying much closer attention to insects, and that led me to my degree now that I have in entomology.

Do you have an Outdoor Story? Go to, and share it with us…and we might share it with Texas.

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


A YouTube video of Mike Quinn on the KLRU-TV Austin (PBS affiliate) show Central Texas Gardener with Tom Spencer


Seasonal Bird Counts

Monday, January 4th, 2016
Birding at Resaca De La Palma State Park

Birding at Resaca De La Palma State Park

This is Passport to Texas

The Christmas Bird count, wraps up Tuesday. Volunteer counters add the understanding of wintering species, says biologist Marsha May.

16—Well, this is a great way to look at the bird populations in the winter time—the wintering species. And we’re able to look at changes through time; this count’s been going on since 1900, so we’re looking at lot of good data there.

Did you miss the Christmas Bird Count? Marsha says more opportunities are on the way.

33—There are other counts that look at spring birds, and then also at breeding birds in the summer. The North American Breeding Bird survey through USGS is another way of looking at breeding birds in the summertime. Then, local Audubon societies hold bird-a-thons in the spring, and that’s looking at all your migratory spring birds. So, there’s lots of things to do with birding, and we do have good birding information on our website. As well as information on the Birding Classic. So, if you really want to get competitive, I’d recommend you get out there and try the Great Texas Birding Classic.

The Great Texas Birding Classic Is April 15 through May 15 and celebrating its 20th year!

Find registration information for the Birding Classic, as well as videos about the birding on the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube channel.

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

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

Winter Hummers

Thursday, December 31st, 2015
Female Lucifer hummingbird. Photo credit: Mark Klym

Female Lucifer hummingbird. Photo credit: Mark Klym

This is Passport to Texas

Fall hummingbird migration peaked in mid September, and spring migration won’t peak until February. Until then what’s a hummingbird lover to do—just wait?

08—Not at all. A lot of people will take their feeders down in October, and that’s really one of the worst things you can do, because we get hummingbirds here in Texas all year round.

Mark Klym coordinates the Hummingbird Roundup, an ongoing citizen survey of backyard hummers. Some birds, he says, arrive in late summer and stay until spring.

09—They’re not going to go down into Mexico. And so, we can keep them fed and keep them sheltered, and if we have the right habitat, we can enjoy hummingbirds 365 days a year.

You may see ruby-throats and black-chins in winter, but the Rufus and Buff bellies are more numerous in the colder months, and if your landscape has plenty of trees and shrubs, you may see some this winter. Just remember to keep your feeders refreshed and thawed.

20—During the winter, it’s a good idea to increase the number of feeders that you have. Continue with that typical, one part sugar, four parts water solution—no red food coloring, please; that’s not good for the birds. If we get a snow, which has happened a few times—yeah, you have to go out there and brush that snow off and get those feeders opened up. The birds need them; as soon as they wake up that’s where they’re going to head—for those feeders.

Find more hummingbird information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Hummingbird Roundup

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
Hummer photographed in the Davis Mountains.

Hummer photographed in the Davis Mountains.

This is Passport to Texas

Hear the word “roundup” and you might think of herding cattle. But Mark Klym, who coordinates the Hummingbird Roundup, thinks of counting tiny birds.

Well, the Hummingbird Roundup is a backyard survey of hummingbirds that we do every year. You can participate at any time. You can download the forms directly off of our website, or you can send us a letter. We appreciate a donation to help with the cost, but we can send you the forms and get you started.

And, so what does it mean to you as a scientist to get this kind of data back?

Well it’s very important. It helps us to understand where the hummingbirds are being see, when they’re being seen. What resources they’re using. It helps us to get an idea how people are responding to them, whether they’re feeding them appropriately, and it gives us an opportunity also to learn a little bit about these hummingbirds. When the survey started, we thought we had 14 species in the state and that some of them were extremely rare. Now we’re finding that these birds are not as rare as we thought, some of them are actually nesting in Texas, and we’ve got 18 species of hummingbird in Texas. These are native non-migrating species? Well, these are all migrating species, but they’re all naturally occurring in the state of Texas.

Download the Hummingbird Roundup forms from the Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.