Birds are Important to U.S. Citizens
•We watch them and feed them
•We write books about them
•We market our businesses with their
•We name our sports teams after them
•We choose them as symbols of our
Why Watch Birds?
76 million Americans currently enjoy the sport
of watching birds.
Birds are colorful, interesting to watch or listen
to and relatively easy to attract to our backyard.
Does not require a lot of specialized equipment,
just a good pair of binoculars and a field guide
that helps identify the bird.
Texas is one of the premiere locations in the
country for birdwatching. (614 different species
in Texas alone!)
Summary on Identifying Birds
First, identify the bird at the group level
and practice recognizing birds by shape
Second, use field marks on the bird to
identify the correct species.
• 778 are migratory
• 300 species migrate to Latin America
• 19 species of shorebirds migrate 8,000 miles
• 34 species of wood warblers and 22 of the 29
species of waterfowl are shared between
U.S., Canada, Mexico
Of the 852 bird species in the United
Kinglet Eastern Phoebe
WarblerCedar Waxwing Dark-Eyed Junco
Common Winter Birds in Houston Backyard
How Did Bird Migration Routes Become
• Migration is affected not only by food supply, but
also by wind and oceans currents. These make
some routes and locations easier to reach. 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 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
• How high can they fly? Higher than Mt. Everest. Bar-headed geese
have been recorded flying across the Himalayas at 29,000 feet.
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?
Go with someone who has already been doing it for a
while. Consider joining one of the local organizations
such as the Audubon Society.
Many good book and nature stores have an excellent
selection of books, videos, magazines and tapes on bird
watching (Wild Birds Unlimited).
Birding is also a popular Internet subject.
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.
Try to visit as many different habitat types as you
possibly can. Many state and national parks and forests
are great places to go bird watching.
Viewing Tips - Follow these tips from experienced behavior
watchers to witness wildlife without startling them or sapping
their energy. It's a feeling you'll always remember.
Fade Into the Woodwork
Wear natural colors and unscented lotions. Some birds can
smell! (turkey vulture)
Remove glasses that glint.
Walk softly so as not to snap twigs or trample wildflowers.
Crouch behind boulders or vegetation to blend your figure or
break up your outline.
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
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
The National Geographic Society's Field Guide to
the Birds of North America is a good one, as are the
Sibley Guide, Peterson Guides and the Golden
These will help bring the birds closer to you optically so you can
better discern a bird's 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, it's important to
try them out yourself to see which size, weight, eye relief, field of
view, and light-gathering abilities are best for you.
What Are All Those Numbers?!?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Buy yourself a high quality, compact notebook that fits easily in a vest
pocket, book pouch, or backpack.
Carry it with you at all times in the field, along with a waterproof pen.
Keep good field notes, recording interesting observations as they occur. Make
this a habit. Always record the time of year, time of day, weather conditions, and
place (part of the state with a short description of habitat, vegetation type and
geology if you know it).
Don't ever try to commit your observations to memory. Better to take detailed
notes on plumage, shape, size, behavior, or any confusing observations. Often
what you think is an unimportant detail turns out to be the key element to
identifying a species.
Don't wait to "bird" your field guide when you get home at the end
of the day.
Making your own sketches with pertinent comments can also be helpful.
Start a Life List
Keep a Texas bird list, as well. 614 different bird species have
officially been accepted by the Texas Rare Birds Committee.
The list gets even larger as you bird the entire state at different
times of year.
Then, put your lists on computer if you have one.
I am ready to
birds, so where
do I start?
Do not to disturb either the birds or their habitat. Walk softly on the
Stay on established pathways and keep motor vehicles on established
roads and parking areas.
Avoid harassment; don't disturb birds that are nesting or their nesting
areas. Do not handle eggs or young or stay too long at a working nest.
Don't over-use playback tapes or screech owl recordings to call birds in.
Don't trespass on private property.
Avoid "tree-whacking" to arouse cavity dwellers.
Divide larger groups of people into smaller, more manageable numbers.
Support local and national bird conservation organizations.
Support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Nongame and Threatened and
Endangered Species fund.
Support the National Audubon Society and Texas Nature Conservancy.
Birds of LSC-CyFair (177)
Black and White Warbler
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Black-throated Green Warbler
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Horned Owl
Greater White-fronted Goose
Le Conte's Sparrow
Little Blue Heron
Start In Your Own Backyard!
Bird feeders & plants around your yard that offer
fruits, seeds and habitat .
Black oil sunflower seed - To attract a diverse
group of birds to your feeder, including chickadees,
nuthatches, finches, cardinals and jays.
Suet (wintertime)- To attract insect-eating birds
such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.
Peanuts – Blue jays!
Add plants to add to your landscape!
Things To Remember About Feeders
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.
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.
Once you start to provide food for birds, continue throughout the cold season.
It's 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.
Do not feed birds spoiled leftovers, salty snack foods or sugary cereals.
Cornell Lab Bird Feeder
Start In Your Own Backyard
Shelter can be provided in many ways, including bird
houses or nest boxes (beginning of the year)
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 Birdhouses
Face the entrance hole to the north or east to
prevent the birds from overheating if summers
are hot in your area.
Mount bird houses on poles or posts rather than
nailing them to trees or hanging them from
limbs, making them less vulnerable to predators.
Don't put bird houses next to bird feeders.
Clean your bird house yearly.
Start In Your Own Backyard
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
Circulating or moving water is more attractive to birds
than stagnant water.
The easiest way to provide water is by maintaining your
bird bath year round.
Where To Go in Houston?
Houston Area Spring Bird Walks - All of these events are
open to the general public and are free.
Wednesday Bird Walks at Edith L. Moore Nature
Herman Brown Park Bird Walks
Jesse Jones Park & Nature Center
Call 281-446-8588 to make reservations for above events that require reservations.
Texas 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_tx
Houston Audubon Society - http://www.houstonaudubon.org/
Outdoor Nature Club - http://www.texasbirding.net/hog/
USGS - http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/infocenter.html
Enature - http://enature.com/birding/birding_home.asp
Saturday Edition of the Houston Chronicle, Star Section, “Wonders of Nature”
TEXBIRDS listserv - http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/texbirds.html