Birds are Important to U.S. Citizens • We watch them and feed them • We write books about them • We market our businesses with their images • We name our sports teams after them • We choose them as symbols of our patriotism
• 38% of all Americans16 years and olderparticipate in WildlifeRelated OutdoorActivities• 82% participate inwildlife-watchingactivities• 76 Million Americansfeed or watch birdsspending $29 billioneach year
Why Watch Birds?n Birds are colorful, interesting to watch or listen to and relatively easy to attract to our backyard.n Does not require a lot of specialized equipment, just a good pair of binoculars and a field guide that helps identify the bird.n Texas is one of the premiere locations in the country for birdwatching. (614 different species in Texas alone!)
How to Identify Birds
Where Should You Start?n 1. Begin by identifying the bird to a group. n Use features like body shape and size, bill shape, length of neck and legs, and shape of wings and tail.
n Learn to recognize shapes for quick recognition.
n 2. Use field marks to identify similar species.
CattleGreat Reddish Snowy
Summary on Identifying Birdsn First, identify the bird at the group level and practice recognizing birds by shape alone.n Second, use field marks on the bird to identify the correct species.
Migration FactsOf the 852 bird species in the UnitedStates:• 778 are migratory• 300 species migrate to Latin America• 19 species of shorebirds migrate 8,000 miles 1 way• 34 species of wood warblers and 22 of the 29 species of waterfowl are shared between U.S., Canada, Mexico
Common Winter Birds in Houston BackyardGolden-Crowned Ruby-Crowned Yellow-Rumped Kinglet Kinglet Warbler Eastern Phoebe Orange-CrownedAmerican Goldfinch Cedar Waxwing Dark-Eyed Junco Warbler
How Did Bird Migration Routes Become Established?• Migration is affected not only by food supply, but also by wind and oceans currents. While many birds migrate from northern breeding areas in the summer, to southern wintering grounds (mainly because there is more land near the northern pole than the southern), there are many other migration patterns. Some birds breed in the far south of South America, Australasia and Africa, and migrate to northern wintering grounds. Some birds migrate horizontally, to enjoy the milder coastal climates in winter. Other birds migrate in terms of altitude; moving higher up a mountain in summer, and wintering on the lowlands.
Migration Fun Facts• The arctic tern flies a phenomenal round trip that can be as long as 20,000 miles per year, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. The sandhill and whooping cranes are both capable of migrating as far as 2,500 miles per year, and the barn swallow more than 6,000 miles.• How do they keep going? Some birds store a special, high-energy fat before the trip. Soaring raptors, for example, may not eat for several weeks as they migrate. Other species eat along their migration routes.• How high can they fly? Higher than Mt. Everest. Bar-headed geese have been recorded flying across the Himalayas at 29,000 feet. Other species seen above 20,000 feet include the whooper swan, the bar-tailed godwit, and the mallard duck. Birds fly this high to reach their destinations efficiently. From radar studies, scientists know that birds can change altitudes to find the best wind conditions. To fight a headwind, most birds stay low, where ridges, trees and buildings slow the wind. To ride a tailwind, they get up high where the wind is as fast as possible.
How Do I Get Started?n Many good book and nature stores have an excellent selection of books, videos, magazines and tapes on bird watching (Wild Birds Unlimited).n Birding is also a popular Internet subject.n Learn to identify common local species using your field guide and audio tapes. Consider putting a bird feeder and/or bird attracting native plants around your home.
Viewing TipsViewing Tips - Follow these tips from experienced behavior watchers to witness wildlife without startling them or sapping their energy. Its a feeling youll always remember.n Fade Into the Woodworkn Wear natural colors and unscented lotions. Some birds can smell! (turkey vulture)n Remove glasses that glint.n Walk softly so as not to snap twigs or trample wildflowers.n Crouch behind boulders or vegetation to blend your figure or break up your outline.
Where Do I Look For Birds?
Which Field Guide Should I Buy? § A practical guide will have the picture of the bird, the verbal description, and the range map all on facing pages. § A Texas birder needs a guide that covers bird species occurring throughout the United States. East meets west and north meets south in our great centrally located state. § The National Geographic Societys Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a good one, as are the Sibley Guide, Peterson Guides and the Golden Guide.
Binoculars§ These will help bring the birds closer to you optically so you can better discern a birds field marks, plumage pattern and color, as well as subtleties of behavior.§ While good optics can be expensive, the choice of brand is very individual. A good guideline is to buy the best optics you can afford. If you are a beginner, start with a cheaper model and graduate to a more expensive model as your skills increase.§ Remember, before purchasing an expensive pair, its important to try them out yourself to see which size, weight, eye relief, field of view, and light-gathering abilities are best for you.http://www.birdwatching.com/optics/binoculars1.html#binoculars
What Are All Those Numbers?!?n Binoculars have a set of numbers on them referring to their magnification power and the size of their objective lens. These numbers are expressed as a formula such as 7 X 35, 7-15 X 30, 8 x 30, 8 x 42 or 10 x 42 are good binoculars for birdwatching.n The first number refers to the power or magnification. If this number is hyphenated it means that the binoculars are capable of a range of magnifications. In the example used above the 7-15 means that the binocular is capable of zooming between 7 and 15 power. Binoculars over 10 power may be difficult to hold steady enough to see the image clearly. Often these binoculars have provisions for mounting on a tripod. With a pair of either 7 × 50 or 7 × 35 binoculars, for example, things 1000 feet away would appear as large as they would if the viewer were standing (1000 divided by 7 = ) 143 feet away.
Aperturen The second number represents the aperture or the size of the objective lens in millimeters. The larger the objective lens the more light it allows into the binocular and the brighter and clearer the image will be. Unfortunately, as objective lenses get larger, the optics get heavier and more uncomfortable to hold.
Eye Reliefn Eye relief is the maximum distance in millimeters that your eyes can be away from the eyepieces and still see the whole picture. Normal binocular eye relief ranges from 9 to 13 mm. This distance works well for folks with good eyesight.n Most glass wearers need eye relief over 13 mm. Binocular manufacturers try to provide this relief through the use of rubber eyecups that can be rolled down. Often this is not enough! Some binoculars are constructed with extended eye relief for glass wearers. Many manufacturers add the letter AB@ the description of binoculars with long eye relief.
How to Use Binoculars§ Find the subject with your unaided eyes.§ Bring the eyepieces just under your eyes.§ Sight the subject over the tops of the eyepieces.§ Slowly bring the binoculars to your eyes.
Birding Ethicsn Do not to disturb either the birds or their habitat. Walk softly on the land.n Stay on established pathways and keep motor vehicles on established roads and parking areas.n Avoid harassment; dont disturb birds that are nesting or their nesting areas. Do not handle eggs or young or stay too long at a working nest.n Dont over-use playback tapes or screech owl recordings to call birds in.n Dont trespass on private property.n Avoid "tree-whacking" to arouse cavity dwellers.n Divide larger groups of people into smaller, more manageable numbers.n Support local and national bird conservation organizations.n Support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Nongame and Threatened and Endangered Species fund.n Support the National Audubon Society and Texas Nature Conservancy.
Start In Your Own Backyard!Foodn Bird feeders & plants around your yard that offer fruits, seeds and habitat .n Black oil sunflower seed - To attract a diverse group of birds to your feeder, including chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals and jays.n Suet (wintertime)- To attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.n Peanuts – Blue jays!n Add plants to add to your landscape!
Things To Remember About Feedersn Birds need an escape route, so make sure you place the feeder near shrubs or evergreen trees so they can make a quick get-away. Woody plants with thorns are helpful to birds because they provide refuge from predators such as house cats. This can also help keep the feeders out of the rain and food dry.n Keep your feeders clean to prevent diseases and deter pests. Disinfect occasionally with one part chlorine bleach and nine parts lukewarm water and dry thoroughly before refilling.n Once you start to provide food for birds, continue throughout the cold season. Its best to provide only one type of food per feeder. Birds feeding at feeders with mixed seed discard the seeds they do not want while selecting their favorites.n Do not feed birds spoiled leftovers, salty snack foods or sugary cereals.n Cornell Lab Bird Feeder
Start In Your Own BackyardSheltern Shelter can be provided in many ways, including bird houses or nest boxes (beginning of the year)n Choosing a bird house will depend on your goal. Do you want a great looking garden ornament or are you looking to attract a certain type of bird? One other way to provide shelter is with the types of trees and shrubs in your yard.
Things To Remember About Birdhousesn Face the entrance hole to the north or east to prevent the birds from overheating if summers are hot in your area.n Mount bird houses on poles or posts rather than nailing them to trees or hanging them from limbs, making them less vulnerable to predators.n Dont put bird houses next to bird feeders.n Clean your bird house yearly.
Start In Your Own BackyardWatern Water can make a difference to the number of birds visiting your feeders. If birds must fly long distances to find water in the winter, they may choose to stay near their water source rather than coming back to your feeder.n Circulating or moving water is more attractive to birds than stagnant water.n The easiest way to provide water is by maintaining your bird bath year round.
Useful Websites/ResourcesTexas Ornithological Society - http://www.texasbirds.org/National Audubon Society - http://www.audubon.org/American Birding Association - http://www.americanbirding.org/American Bird Conservancy http://www.abcbirds.org/World Birding Center - http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/worldbirdingcenter/Bird Links to the World (Texas) http://www.bsc-eoc.org/links/links.jsp?page=l_usa_txHouston Audubon Society - http://www.houstonaudubon.org/Outdoor Nature Club - http://www.texasbirding.net/hog/USGS - http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/infocenter.htmlEnature - http://enature.com/birding/birding_home.aspSaturday Edition of the Houston Chronicle, Star Section, Wonders of NatureTEXBIRDS listserv - http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/texbirds.htmlhttp://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/