Archive for October, 2007

Brown-headed Cowbird, Part 1

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Wildlife Restoration Program

The brown-headed cowbird migrated with bison across the Great Plains. Because it’s hard to raise a family on the road, cowbirds laid their eggs in other nests; host birds unwittingly raised their young.

The problem with the cowbird eggs is that normally they’re big eggs; they hatch earlier than the host eggs do; and they’re very vocal and hungry and beg for food.

Biologist, Marsha May, says the cowbird hatchlings starve out and kick out the host’s offspring, putting a dent in the population of that species. Back when bison roamed, cowbirds didn’t have quite the same impact.

Black-capped vireos, which are an endangered species now, evolved where if they were parasitized by a brown-headed cowbird, they would leave that nest and re-nest – start a new nest. Well, if the cowbirds had already moved through, that would have worked.

Without bison, cowbirds hang with cows. Because cows are fenced in and don’t migrate, neither do cowbirds.

They’re parasitizing all the birds in that area – their nests – and they’re having a major impact on some species like the black capped vireo, because the black-capped vireo keeps re-nesting and that’s wasting a lot of energy, and if it’s constantly being parasitized, then no young will be reproduced at all that year.

We’ll have more on cowbirds tomorrow.

That’s our show… we receive support from the Wildlife restoration Program… funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuels.

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

TPW November Magazine Preview

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Wildlife Restoration Program

It may be October, but the November issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine is available for your reading pleasure now.

Managing Editor, Louie Bond, highlights a couple of stories that you won’t want to miss.

In our November issue we say good-bye to Lady Bird Johnson who, of course, was a great friend to Texas Parks and Wildlife. And we have a poignant essay by Barbara Rodriguez, who felt like so many of us that she lost a member of the family when Lady Bird passed away.

But, our cover story in November is about quail.

Because quail season runs through February twenty-fourth and, as we know, Texas hunters are passionate about this little game bird. But he has very special needs as far as weather and terrain. Some years you can practically trip over them, and some years all that thrives are grass burs and prickly pear. So, now folks are getting together and they’re organizing wildlife cooperatives in order to try to control the situation.

They say that last year was a bust, but this year with all the rain – it’s pretty optimistic. So, quail hunters have every reason to be quite happy and looking forward to quail season.

The November issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine is on newsstands now.

That’s our show for today… with support from the Wildlife restoration program…working to increase shooting and hunting opportunities in Texas…

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

Outdoor Story: Kate Lipinski

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Passport to Texas Outdoor Stories from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Some of Kate Lipinski’s earliest memories are of camping trips in northern Wisconsin with her family. She said they would spend a week in the north woods, paddling and living in a rustic cabin.

And I’d never done any real camping until I was about twelve.

I went on a backpacking trip when I was about twelve years old through summer camp. It was kind of a crazy trip, because we had a couple girls get sick, and they had to get taken off of our trip. And so we were hiking out to the trail head all the time to evacuate two of these girls. And then, we were doing really long days to make up for it.

So, we hiked eight miles this one day, and the next day we decided to take a day off and bake a cake. And we were sitting next to Lake Superior; it was sunset at Lake Superior and we were eating this cake that we baked over an open fire. And on one side we can see a sunset and on the other side we could see a storm moving in. And we could see lighting and thunder just rolling across the lake.

The sunset was still going on, on the other side of the sky, and it was perfect. And we were just watching this storm roll in. That’s when I realized that it was all worth it. Even if you have to hike tons of miles, and you’re really tired and you’re really sweaty, there’s always a reward when you go out in nature. There’s always something that you can get out of it.

Thanks, Kate. By the way, Kate is Passport’s new intern, and we’re delighted to have her here.

That’s our show for today…remember Life is Better Outside…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Woodpecker Damage — One Solution

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

[Woody Woodpecker laughter]

Woodpecker damage to your home is no laughing matter.

As a rule woodpeckers excavate cavities in dead trees called snags, which they live in. The exception is when they mistake dark colored, or cedar house siding, for a snag and end up leaving a trail of destruction.

And it looks like cannon balls have been shot through the house. Maybe two or three; and we’ve seen some with fifteen, sixteen holes.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist. He says woodpecker damage occurs most often in urban and suburban areas where the dead wood has been removed.

What we recommend people to do with problems with woodpeckers is to put a nest box. If you’re familiar with a bluebird box, it’s just a larger version of that custom made for woodpeckers.

Visit for a link to free blueprints to make your own woodpecker nest box.

People can build this in a couple of hours on the weekend, and put it up on the side of the house, and in all cases that we’ve done this – it’s worked. And the woodpecker stops chiseling on the home, and goes to this next box, and is very content.

That’s our show for today… Remember: Life’s Better Outside…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Click on this link to take you to woodpecker house plans.
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Woodpecker Damage — The Problem

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

If you live in East Texas, and have noticed strange holes in the wood siding of your home… don’t call the police; call an ornithologist.

There are fifteen species of woodpeckers in Texas, eight of which are in the eastern third of Texas. And that’s where we get most of our calls of woodpecker damage.

Non-game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says the pileated and red bellied woodpeckers are among the culprits inflicting the damage to these homes.

What happens a lot of time is that they see these houses that might be painted brown, they might have cedar siding, and this is very attractive to the birds to try to excavate a cavity. So, they’re not looking for food when they’re doing this; they’re looking to make a cavity to call home.

The pileated woodpecker, about the size of a crow, can excavate holes as big as a man’s fist — and not just in the outside walls of your home, either.

That’s right. We’ve documented pileateds going through into the sheetrock and into the room of the house. Of course, they’re very lost when they do that, they quickly go out. They’re not looking to make a mess of the house.

Keeping woodpeckers from damaging your home… [Woodpeckers pecking]…that’s tomorrow.

And that’s our show for today… Remember: Life’s Better Outside…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.