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Beak of the Week - Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren ( Thryothorus ludovicianus ) Family: Troglodytidae Our Beak of the Week is a favorite Houston resident, the Carolina Wren! Male and female Carolina Wrens look alike; both are reddish-brown above and warm buffy-orange below, with a long, slightly downcurved bill, a bold white eyebrow stripe, a rusty cheek, white throat, and a relatively long tail.  Carolina Wrens are common in Houston and the eastern part of Texas. They can be found in dense forest undergrowth, especially in shrubby tangles and thickets. They usually forage in pairs, creeping around vegetated areas and scooting up and down tree trunks in search of insects, spiders, and fruit. They will visit bird feeders for seed, peanuts, and suet. Keeping a brush pile is a great way to attract Carolina Wrens to your yard. They eat predominantly insects and readily visit suet feeders. Often heard before they are seen, this small, shy bird produces a loud song. The adults live in pairs all year, and they may "duet&quo
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Beak of the Week - Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron ( Nyctanassa violacea ) Family: Ardeidae Our Beak of the Week is the official Bird of Houston , the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron! This seemingly hunch-backed bird can be a difficult one to spot. Both species of North American night-herons, yellow-crowned and black-crowned, forage mainly at night and spend most of the day hidden among branches near a body of water. These two birds can be differentiated easily by their plumage on and around their head. The most obvious difference is stated in their names: Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have a yellow crown and Black-crowned Night-Herons have a black crown. But that’s not the only difference! Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have a black head and face with a distinct thick white cheek stripe, whereas Black-crowned Night-Herons have a black head with gray on their face that extends down the whole front of the body. Yellow-crowned Night Herons also have a gray front and neck, but it contrasts greatly with their facial patter

Beak of the Week - Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris ) Family: Trochilidae Did you know that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are able to fly in all 6 directions with wing beats of 53 times per a second? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on the back and crown with gray-white underparts. Males have a brilliant iridescent red throat while females and immatures have fine, dark throat streaking. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed on the nectar of red or orange tubular flowers as well as at hummingbird feeders and sometimes tree sap. Hummingbirds also catch insects in midair or pull them out of spider webs. In preparation for their migration, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds double their weight from 3 grams to over 6 grams prior to departing. In the fall, millions of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will pass through Texas on their migration to points south of the border with many crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. They arrive from breeding grounds as far away as Nova Scotia

Birds nest on Cattail Island for the first time!

The Texas colonial waterbird counts are underway and Houston Audubon staff are out conducting this important monitoring work. A fantastic surprise in the coast-wide monitoring effort is the first-time use of an island built for just that purpose in Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. This now three-year-old island was part of a nesting expansion project completed with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Ducks Unlimited to help recover species affected by the Gulf Oil Spill. After construction, it was planted with native vegetation and nesting condominiums were built and installed to entice pioneering herons, egrets, and spoonbills.  We watched and waited the first two years as the willow and cattails filled in the bare island. It was the Tricolored Herons that finally put nesting material to cattail stalk to get the party started. Five species nested on the Cattail Island in Smith Pond for the first time! Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Cattle

Beak of the Week - Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler ( Setophaga pensylvanica ) Family: Parulidae The Chestnut-sided Warbler migrates through eastern Texas in spring and the boldly patterned male never fails to dazzle onlookers with his bright yellow crown, black line through his eye, black mustache stripe, white breast, and chestnut streaked flanks. The female has a similar pattern but is duller with a greener back, paler face, and less extensive chestnut on the sides. In the fall, the bird undergoes a dramatic transformation that causes its plumage to bear little resemblance to its appearance in spring and summer. During the non-breeding season the underparts are plain white, the upperparts are greenish yellow, and both sexes have an obvious white eye-ring. The Chestnut-sided Warbler was rare during John James Audubon's time; he only observed the bird once while roaming eastern North America in the early 1800s. Numbers of the birds increased during the 19th century when logging and low intensity agriculture p

Beak of the Week - Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing ( Bombycilla cedrorum ) Family: Bombycillidae Flocks of Cedar Waxwings are welcome winter visitors to the Houston suburbs where they feast primarily on berries. The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit; their digestive system is especially adapted to rapidly digest berries and they can survive on fruit alone for several months. Favorite food sources include the berries of hollies, Cherry Laurel, Cedar and Privet. They are also known to relish the early spring buds of maples and elms. The name "waxwing" is derived from the waxy-looking red tips of their wings. Cedar Waxwings are pale brown on the head and chest fading to soft gray on the wings. The belly is pale yellow, and the tail is gray with a bright yellow tip. The face has a narrow black mask neatly outlined in white. The red waxy tips to the wing feathers are not always easy to see. Males and females look alike. The period between Christmas and February is a

YPAC Members on a Mission: Supporting Houston’s Feathered Friends

It doesn’t take much effort to find advice on how to support birds. In fact, a simple Google search produces hundreds of helpful resources in a matter of seconds. So, if the information is out there, then why are so few people taking action? The answer is both simple, and extremely complicated. In short – knowledge alone is often not enough to change peoples’ behaviors. Our decisions, whether we are buying a new car or planting native plants, are often governed by an internal process – assessing our resources, weighing pros and cons, and seeking advice from outside sources. To move people to action, we have to have an understanding of that decision-making process and create strategies that not only fuel and sustain motivation, but also work to help overcome barriers that keep people from finding success.  With this in mind, Houston Audubon’s Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) has embarked on a mission to uncover the things people find most challenging (barriers) and most rewa