Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Texas’ 12 Most Beautiful Birds

Friday, May 8th, 2015
Scissor-tailed flycatcher; photo by Robert Bunch

Scissor-tailed flycatcher; photo by Robert Bunch

This is Passport to Texas

No parent wants to openly admit they have a favorite child, just as ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, hesitated to reveal his picks for Texas’ 12 most beautiful birds in an article for Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine’s May issue. He called it a 639 way tie.

07—The 639 is how many birds are documented in Texas; and to me, they all have some beauty in one form or another.

Cliff said his picks were not the “obvious choices.”

22— I kept out—purposefully—birds that most people would agree are super gorgeous and super obvious; things like: Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, Painted Bunting… You can’t be a ‘shoe in’. And I think some of these birds are considers a shoe in, but [sigh] too much bling, too much gaudiness, like in a painted bunting—to me—kept it off the list.

In fact, the color of a bird’s plumage had less to do with it making the list of beautiful birds than did its behavior.

20— And I pointed that out in the article. Some birds maybe didn’t have the jazziest colors, but they excelled in other ways. Like, the Swallow-tailed Kite is a very simple black and white
bird, but the Swallow-tailed Kite makes up for it with its graceful flight—very effortlessly soaring against a blue sky—is just, to me, breathtaking and beautiful.

Which birds made Cliff Shackelford’s list for most beautiful? Find out in the May issue of TPW magazine. What’s on your list of beautiful Texas birds? Tell us at

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

Attracting Hummingbirds

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015


This is Passport to Texas

If you’ve never seen a hummingbird in your part of Texas, it’s not because they aren’t around.

10—There’s not a county in Texas that can’t see at least two species of hummingbird. In fact, there’s not a state in the United States—with the exception of Hawaii—that cannot expect to find at least two hummingbirds.

Okay, maybe that is not a lot of hummers, but they are out there. Mark Klym coordinates the Texas Hummingbird Roundup for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says Texas has 18 species of hummingbirds, and one region boasts the most.

07—Certainly the greatest variety would be in the Davis Mountains area. The Davis Mountains and the Chisos Mountains—out in West Texas.

If you want to attract hummingbirds passing through the area, you could put up feeders, but Klym says there is a better way.

14—That feeder, even in a good garden, is nothing more than a fast food stop. You want to provide plants that these birds can go to for nectar. But also, you want to provide plants that will attract insects, because these birds are heavy insect eaters.

If you do put up a feeder, the nectar recipe is as follows: one part regular table sugar to four parts tap water. Use very warm water (not hot) right out of the tap. Stir briskly to dissolve the sugar and you’re done. Let it cool before setting out a feeder. Change the mixture every four days and never use food coloring.

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

Great Texas Birding Classic Underway

Friday, April 24th, 2015
Coastal bird watchers

Coastal bird watchers

This is Passport to Texas

Any novice or seasoned birder worth their field guide comes to Texas for the Great Texas Birding Classic – a statewide bird watching tournament, April 15 to May 15.

08— It isn’t all about winning, it really is about fun. And I’m really happy to see that people are finally realizing this isn’t just
for hardcore birders.

Shelly Plante oversees Nature Tourism for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Don’t be surprised if during the tournament you see out of town birders roaming your communities.

38—We do see some traveling. We have a statewide weeklong tournament and there’s a statewide big day tournament. So, you can do 24 –hours and go wherever you want – from the Hill Country to the coast; you aren’t bounded by regional territory like you are in some of the other big day competitions. The statewide weeklong is six days of birding anywhere in the entire state. And so, we have a lot of teams doing that. Even though it’s a huge commitment, it’s a lot of fun. A lot of them go from west Texas, all the way down to south Texas, all the way to the upper Texas coast to the Pineywoods. So, they’re seeing 350 or more birds in a week; and, you can’t do that in a lot of states.
So, Texas is unique.

Winning teams choose where to direct funds for habitat conservation. Check out what the birders are seeing this year at

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.

Wildlife: The Birds and the Beans

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Birds and coffee, image from coffeekrave

Birds and coffee, image from coffeekrave

This is Passport to Texas

If you’re morning ritual includes savoring a cup of coffee, you might want to know what’s in your mug, and how it’s affecting birds.

04— We’re talking about shade grown coffee versus full sun coffee.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Parks and Wildlife. Farmers in Mexico, Central and South America who grow coffee in full sun replace migratory bird habitat with coffee shrubs, but not so when its shade grown.

07—They don’t eliminate all the native forest. They take out some of the forest, and plant the coffee within the forest.

Shade grown coffee tastes the same as sun grown, but is better for birds. The remnants of native forest that harbor coffee shrubs attract a variety of overwintering species.

13— This is important for us as Americans because a lot of these birds are backyard birds. If there’s a complete change of the vegetation that the birds are keying in on, then they are going to have to keep moving.

And that could affect what we end up seeing in our backyards in spring and summer. You can help migratory birds by drinking shade grown coffee.

06—We’re also calling it bird friendly coffee. And, even if you drink [bird friendly coffee] part of the time, it’s better than none
of the time.

Look for the bird friendly seal of approval on bags of coffee, or ask your barista if your hot beverage is made in the shade.

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

Event: Birding Classic Puts FUN in Funding

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Seen during 2008 Great Texas  Birding Classic. What will you see?

Seen during 2008 Great Texas Birding Classic. What will you see?

This is Passport to Texas

For the first 16 of its 19 year history, birders had to flock to coastal areas to participate in the Great Texas Birding Classic.

09— We’ve now gone statewide. So, this will be our third year to be a statewide competition, and people love it. They’re coming out to do all the different tournaments.

Shelly Plante is nature tourism manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife. The tournament has experienced 40% growth in participation since expanding statewide, and a 50% increase in funds available for grants.

23— The whole point of the event, and the reason this growth is so great, is all the money raised goes towards conservation grants for birding and birders. So, they can be enhancement grants, which can be boardwalks, or birding blinds. They might be acquisition grants, or restoration grants that restore native habitat that’s great for birds, or remove invasive species. So, it’s a really great win-win.

Since becoming statewide, Shelly Plante says they’ve seen greater diversity in habitat projects that receive funding.

11— Two years ago, we funded a community park project in Utopia, Texas – Central Texas Hill Country area – and that was our first project ever to not be on the coast. So, that was very exciting.

The event is April 15 – May 15. Registration ends April 1. Check out all the Great Texas Birding Classic tournaments and habitat projects at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti