Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Return of the Black-Capped Vireo

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
This black-capped vireo male is a passerine species.

Male Black-capped vireo.

This is Passport to Texas

Not long ago the tiny masked bird known as the Black-capped Vireo nearly became extinct. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in 1987. But rigorous habitat recovery efforts have finally changed that listing.

Good news for the Black-capped Vireo is that it was recently delisted.

Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Now we’re in a phase of what we call the post-delisting monitoring. So Parks and Wildlife is involved in continuing the count of Black-capped vireos to make sure that the numbers are still steady and increasing but not decreasing.

Cliff believes we’ve become better at understanding what makes a healthy Hill Country ecosystem.

I think the one thing our agency has learned is better deer management. We’ve relayed that to a lot of our landowners that we work with, and you can drive around the Hill Country and see who’s doin’ it right. But I think that’s the big thing is finding that balance of where you can have your agriculture, your deer, and your Black-capped Vireos and everybody lives in harmony, and we’ve found that sweet spot and it’s really working.

Now it’s up to us to hand down our lessons learned to the next generation so that the Black-capped Vireo is never endangered again.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

TPW Magazine: Knock on Wood

Thursday, July 11th, 2019
Pileated woodpecker with young.

Pileated woodpecker with young.

This is Passport to Texas

Cliff Shackelford—the nongame ornithologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife—is one of our favorite guests on Passport to Texas. He’s always upbeat and ready to share interesting birding facts. Plus, the guy’s super passionate about his subject matter.

And in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine—on newsstands now—he tells us about a species that’s held his fascination since he was a youngster, in an article called: Knock on Wood: Why I Love the Woodpeckers of Texas.

In the article Cliff writes: My fascination with woodpeckers has become somewhat of a life’s journey. In graduate school, I wrote a thesis on woodpeckers…I’ve published numerous papers on woodpeckers…I’ve traveled to other countries specifically to observe woodpeckers…Thus, I’ve long considered myself a qualified fan of woodpeckers.

Yeah, I’d have to agree with his self-assessment. In addition, he lets us know about the 16 species of woodpeckers and allies in Texas, which go by a variety of other names including sapsuckers and flickers—but they’re all in the woodpecker family.

He even shares a list of 15 regularly occurring woodpecker species here in Texas, complete with photos.

Get to know Cliff Shackelford and his beloved woodpeckers in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. On Newsstands now.

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

The “Bird Man” of the Airwaves

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
Cliff Shackelford

Cliff Shackelford

This is Passport to Texas

You are listening to Red River Radio. Stay tuned “Bird Calls” is coming up in just a few moments right here on your public radio station.

On the second Tuesday of the month, 10,000 loyal listeners tune in to hear the bird man of East Texas.

I’ve never heard a show on the radio that people can call in and ask questions about birds

Cliff Shackelford is the State Ornithologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife

[DJ] And we have lines open right now. We’re going to Clair from Shreveport, Claire you’re on line. What’s your question?

[Claire] Hi Cliff, such a big fan.

[Cliff] Hey, great. What’s up?

A lot of people that like watching reality TV ought to turn off the TV and go outside because there’s a reality there that’s so pure, so real, so interesting.

The show took flight after Cliff helped with the station’s annual fund drive.

He does this voluntarily.

Kermit Poling is the General Manager for Red River Radio.

It’s a lot of work for him and there’s travel back and fourth

[Cliff] This is a great partnership for Parks and Wildlife. They just send me over to preach the good word about birds through a radio station that’s already established …I can reach a lot of people in one hour.

For more about the show, “Bird Calls” with Cliff Shackelford, go to

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

TPW TV–Green Jay Study in Rio Grande Valley

Thursday, April 11th, 2019
Green Jay

Green Jay

This is Passport to Texas

A new study in South Texas focuses on the Green Jay.

We don’t know a lot about green jays, first of all, so it’s important to know what they’re doing, if we want to be able to manage for them, and we want to manage for them because we have a lot of birdwatchers that come into the Valley and one of the species that they really want to see are green jays.

Tony Henehan is a Wildlife Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Green Jay occurs from South America, north to Texas.

The Rio Grande Valley is, I think, the third fastest growing urban area in the country. It’s expanding at a rapid rate. A lot of urbanization, a lot of habitat change is going on, and so these birds have been able to adapt to a certain extent.

To understand how Green Jays are adapting to the rapidly changing environment of The Valley, Tony plans to trap, tag and track up to ten birds a year. RGV resident, Donna McCowan let Tony place a trap in her backyard.

Well, Tony brought this cage to me about a week and a half ago and had me set it up here under the shade. With the cage door open we were putting corn and peanuts in it, so the birds would get used to it and just assume it’s supposed to be there, and they had no problem with getting in and out of it. This morning, we’re going close the top of it and watch and wait for the birds to show up.

Find out if Tony and Donna trapped a Green Jay when you watch the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of April 14.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our Series.

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

Make Plans for the Big Sit Next Year

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Great Texas Birding Classic begins April 15 and runs through May 15.

This is Passport to Texas

If you didn’t enter a team in the Great Texas Birding Classic by the April 1st deadline because you think you and your friends aren’t good enough birders. Fuhgeddaboudit.

Next year, enter The Big Sit.

The Big Sit is a wonderful category if you only have one or two good birders, and everyone else just has an interest in nature.

Shelly Plante is nature tourism manager for TPW and organizes the classic. Only one person on a Big Sit team needs to ID a bird for it to go on the team’s checklist.

It’s super easy, it’s easily accessible to everyone. And you go and bird in a 17-foot diameter circle for as much as you want in a day. I’ve seen people do it at their local park; I’ve seen people do it in their backyards, which is a lot of fun. So, there are so many different ways that you can do a Big Sit, and it’s just a lot of fun. We like to call it the tailgate party for birding, because people usually have a great food spread, and just a lot of camaraderie throughout the day. So that’s a lot of fun.

Food…friends…feathers? That just screams good times. Find out what this year’s teams spotted across the state between April 15 and May 15 at or, where teams upload their checklists.

Every team fills out a checklist and they upload it into eBird, which is an online bird checklist system through Cornell Lab of Ornithology that we use. So, teams are contributing to citizen science on an international level when they do the birding classic. Once they’ve submitted their checklist, they share that checklist with birding classic staff, and that’s how we know what was seen or heard.

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