Ask A Birder

Have a bird question? Fill out our Ask-a-Birder form to submit your Central Texas bird-related question and you will get an answer from a Travis Audubon Ask-a-Birder Expert. Alternatively, scroll to the bottom of the page and comment with your question and check back in a few days for an answer!

NOTE:  If you have a wild bird emergency, please contact Austin Wildlife Rescue by calling 512-472-9453.

Click here to read a log of old questions or scroll down and view the comments section.


  1. Joel Morgan says:

    Hello. I want to install a screech owl box on a pole (not in a tree or on the house). The only commercial owl box pole I have found is for a barn owl. It is about 8 foot tall and 1 inch diameter. Will this work for a screech owl? thanks

  2. Nicole says:

    will a mamma Abandon her nest in a bird house if a cat messes with it

  3. Elaine says:

    We just starting seeing Eastern Screech Owl babies peeking out of the nest box in our backyard. Is there anything special we should do to protect them from predators (or help with fledging? There aren’t any branches nearby they can use when venturing out. Will that be a problem?)

  4. Eric Neubauer says:

    I recently moved from PA and learning new birds down here. I believe I have a Sagebrush Sparrow in my area which is blackland prairie. It most closely matches the Sage Sparrow in the Golden Guide except that the light area behind the eye is even more prominent. I gather this former species has been changed into two and the Sagebrush Sparrow is the closer of the two, but photos don’t not show the same head pattern, and neither do photos of Bell’s. What is the correct ID?

  5. Eastern BlueBird says:

    Will geckos and squirrels eat bird eggs? I am referring to the small geckos found all around a yard, not an inguana or big lizard, just the usual small geckos and squirrels.. I have a birdhouse and some eastern bluebirds made a nest in it. When I went to check, there was a gecko in it but no eggs. Phooey! I have many birds in the trees and have found a few bird eggs on the grass, usually light blue or solid white. I just hope the birds are born and not being eaten by squirrels or geckos. Would you know?

  6. Marc Fulmer says:

    I’m new to Austin and birding. I live in the Avery Ranch area and have seen a bird twice this week that is new to me. Can you help me identify it? My first thought is that it is a hawk of some kind, but I’ve not been able to locate it in my Audubon Field Guide Western Region. I’ve seen it flying between the large oak trees in our neighborhood. It is mostly grey, slender, roughly 12″-14″ in length and has a distinctive white band on its wings that seems to be solid white and 1-1/2″ wide. I think it has a black line above or near its eye. Its wings seem rather narrow as well, so a very streamlined bird.
    Thank you!

  7. Frank h Maki says:

    Why does a falcon or hawks wings not freeze when flying fast in winter?

  8. Nicole says:

    Hello! We just moved to San Antonio from California and just started hearing a bird at about 5am every morning for the past two weeks right outside of our window. It’s very very loud and wakes us up every time. Not sure what kind of bird it is but it has two different sounds it makes and doesn’t sound like a nice chirp more like a squack. I’m just curious if this bird will leave eventually once the season is over or will we have to just have to live with it. Thank you for your help!

  9. Sandi friend says:

    All the small birds have disappeared from the feeder. I live in western Colorado, is it the smoke from wildfires or the fact we trimmed some trees. Just tell me they will be back!

  10. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Jene,
    This far south, the way things have warmed up, we actually get wintering hummingbirds. So I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to bring them in. Those birds that will migrate on can use the calories.

  11. Jene says:

    I posted concern about not being able to attract hummingbirds – success!. They are emptying the 4 oz feeder within a day or two now, so very happy to see them. I have just been boiling the water by itself for about a minute, then pouring it into the sugar. 1) Am I supposed to boil the sugar, and for how long so as not to change the composition of the sugar? Larger feeder on my list now! I didn’t have time to set out solution from chilled to room temp., so I have found they don’t mind chilled. I have alternated the exact style feeder plastic standard red with one that is lavendar color, and they don’t mind the color change of the feeder, hesitant at first, but not now at all. I also observed with another person’s feeder missing the flower against clear glass, they don’t see the opening/hole in the feeder FYI. I did attach a red fabric swatch which used to be a keychain, to the clear ant guard. 2nd question is I’ve heard in this area feeders go out on Valentine’s day, but don’t remember when they are supposed to be brought in for the winter season.

  12. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Julie,

    It’s hard to say because there are so many possibilities. Feral cats are a problem most places, but also we have raccoons in Austin that might be nest predators. Since the eggs were apparently eaten, I think a snake might be the culprit. Really, any potential bird or nest predator that you can imagine being in Austin could be it. Sorry to hear your nest didn’t make it. But since your yard has been a good territory for a pair of mockingbirds I expect another pair will take up residence before long.

  13. julie says:

    7 days ago I checked a nest in a vine that mockingbirds have used before. There were 3 mockingbird eggs in it. Everyday I have witnessed the parent(s) coming and going, hanging around my patio as usual protecting their nest. Today I have not seen the mockingbird. I checked the nest and it is wiped clean. I have found a dead adult mockingbird in the vine. This vine is on my patio. I don’t own an outdoor cat. The nest is not easy to get to. The babies hadn’t hatched because the Mockingbirds had not turned mean on me yet. What could have happened to those unhatched eggs?

  14. BirdAnswers says:

    Yes.There are still birds nesting in Austin at this time. But I should think you’d be safe by early September, and it is likely to still be about this hot. However, I looked up the site, and their recommendation is to avoid pruning in the spring, if possible, but that anytime between June and February is OK. So I would give it a bit more time. Many species of birds do multiple broods during our lengthy summers. If you haven’t already, check out that site for instructions on how to prune and avoid oak wilt. Hope this helps.

  15. Penny Rago says:

    It is August 2nd, and I would like to trim some live oak trees in Austin, Texas while it is still too hot for oak wilt beetles. I am concerned though that some birds may still be nesting, and I don’t want to destroy their nests. I won’t be able to see them due to the leaves. Do you know if birds nest this late in the summer still.

  16. BirdAnswers says:

    Jack, the fact that what you are hearing varies from soft to loud, depending on the strength of the wind, makes me wonder whether you are hearing a bird or something else. Certainly many of us birders have been out in a wooded area and thought we were hearing a bird, when closer observation and listening revealed it was two small tree branches rubbing against each other, much louder when the wind was blowing stronger. The next time you hear it, you might just grab a strong flashlight or spotlight and go out into your yard, shine the light into the trees, and try to find the source of the sound. Good luck!

  17. BirdAnswers says:

    David, perhaps the bird is a juvenile Northern Cardinal. Juveniles of that species have dark bills. They don’t have the full red plumage that adult males have. Although the juveniles don’t really have blue on their head or back, sometimes in certain lighting, they can look quite different. You might do a search on Google for “northern cardinal juvenile” and see what images are shown. You may have to look through several. However, I found one rather quickly which had the dark bill, and interestingly, the feathers on its back and head had bluish “highlights.”

  18. Jack P says:

    I’m in odem Texas, inland of the corpus chriati area and when the wind picks up something habitating the trees in my yard starts to screech softer and louder based on how heavy the wind is blowing. More of a scream almost. It is sometimes followed by the same noise starting in a different tree, possibly a response. Idk what kind of trees these are, but they’re not palm trees and only about 20-30 feet high Max. Any idea what this could be?

  19. David G. Cooke says:

    Bird identification. Same size, shape and red color of Cardinal with the following exceptions: Beak is dark not orange, head is dark blue with crown, blue on back. Saw it for the first time yesterday, 07/16/16, on our feeder.

  20. BirdAnswers says:

    I’m not so sure you are seeing a bird. If the colors are truly gray and black and white, and it is tiny like a hummingbird, that doesn’t sound like any bird in this area (or elsewhere in the country, in fact). There are large moths that are often mistaken for hummingbirds. Take a look at this web site and see the photograph: Here is another web site to check: I hope that you see the one that you’ve observed. If not, check one or more of the links on these web sites.

  21. BirdAnswers says:

    Oops! I didn’t see this additional post from you prior to preparing my reply below. The only thing I haven’t already answered is about the plastic container. Glass containers are safer in heat such as we experience, since there is no chance of it deteriorating and leaching chemicals into the water. But, there are varying degrees of quality of the plastic. If you do use plastic, look for containers advertised as food grade plastic or UV stabilized. Otherwise, it would probably be best to switch to glass. And whatever you choose, do buy one that is easy to clean, so you can clean it with a toothbrush or bottle brush whenever you change the water. Also, about once a week in hot weather, clean the feeder thoroughly with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Soak the feeder in this solution for one hour, then clean with a bottle brush. Rinse well with running water and refill. Some bird watchers use a vinegar solution, rather than bleach, to clean the feeder and that seems to work fine too.

  22. BirdAnswers says:

    My initial thoughts were that you probably wouldn’t have too much trouble attracting hummingbirds to your balcony feeder, but I did a web search to confirm it. I found a site that has some pretty useful suggestions to get them to start coming to your feeder, so I’ll just provide you with this link to it: I like their idea of hanging baskets of flowers near the feeder to help attract hummingbirds to it. You don’t have to use the same feeder every time. It’s good that you boil the water and sugar, as that is supposed to help keep mold from forming as quickly as an unboiled mixture. The experts seem to agree that it doesn’t matter whether you place the feeder in the sun or shade in terms of attracting hummingbirds. However, you will need to replace the sugar water more frequently if it is in full sun on the west side. The recommendation is to change the water every day if in full sun, or every other day, if not, when the temperature reaches the 90s or higher. Thus, you might be able to get by with an every-other-day water change if you move the feeder to a shady location in mid-afternoon. But that might be more of a nuisance for you than changing the water every day. It’s up to you. You can keep the pre-mixed sugar water in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. You really don’t need to chill it before putting it out, but just let it cool to room temperature inside your apartment. I wouldn’t add red food dye, since it might cause problems for the hummingbird over its lifetime. As noted above, hanging a basket of flowers nearby, or even something else that is red or pink, to draw the hummingbird’s attention to your feeder. I hope I’ve answered all your questions. Good luck!

  23. Jene says:

    After further consideration of my post, I put a red marker tag hanging near the ant guard, and within 30 min. a hummer appeared (just one), so I won’t be using red dye. I’m guessing the sugar water can be refrigerated several weeks, my remaining question is it ok to leave it baking in the direct sun? I will use tap water or vinegar/water for cleaning, and replace with fresh sugar water at least once a week, sooner if it’s cloudy. Very happy one showed up, and hope to see more. I found 4 oz. Humm Blossom Aspects feeder that bees won’t overtake it since they can’t reach it, it has a perch, and easy to clean. I might get a small artificial flower to hang from the clear ant guard, as the lavendar color does not stand out, or replace with red one. Wonder if the heat will make the plastic leach chemicals into the food – hence considering replacing with a glass feeder, however that has no perch. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Not enough space to add container plants near feeder.

  24. Deborah says:

    I spotted a tiny bird in our backyard tree. It is the size of a hummingbird but is not a hummingbird. It is largely grey/black/white. It appeared to be searching for small bugs for dinner. What type of bird is this? We are new to the Austin area (moved here from Plano last August) so I am not sure of the various species that are here in town.

  25. Jene says:

    Hummingbird feeder full sun. I’m on an upper level floor apartment (just moved here), the only place to hang hummingbird feeder is from metal balcony, which receives full sun at the hottest part of the day 1 p.m. through evening – west side, high enough no shade. Do I remove the feeder during the full sun exposure when I can, or just replace the sugar water more frequently, how frequently? The feeder is 4 oz. capacity lavender color – will they even find it/see it? Can I switch out different feeders or do I always use the same one? How long can pre-mixed sugar water keep in the frig.? I mix ¼ cup table sugar with 1 cup boiling RO water, then chill before using, no red food dye. Or should I use dye until they have found it? Or use the red feeder until they find it?

  26. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Sara. I guess you’ve probably ID the culprit of your tree injury either by direct observation of the bird or the types of holes made. Sapsuckers are winter migrants & do not breed in Central Texas. They can do significant damage to a tree. You did not mention the tree specie, but woods like pine, birch, maple &!hemlock are susceptible. It drills 1/4 inch holes spaced neatly in rows.
    To protect the tree you could loosely wrap the area being attacked with hardware cloth or burlap.also applying a sticky substance like Tanglefoot, or Roost-no-more.

  27. Sara says:

    Do sapsuckers in the Austin area migrate? One of our trees has suffered much damage from them and I am wondering if these birds are still in town? Also we would appreciate tips on how to discourage their return to the tree. Thanks for your help, Sara

  28. BirdAnswers says:

    Hello Jon,
    I love being a Purple Martin landlord, but it has required patience on my part. The first goal is to setup housing that the Martins are attracted to both in type/ size of housing & location. You want it to be safe for the birds. Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit. There are several excellent sources on the web. I.e. or
    By following the basic guidelines for housing, you can certainly experiment. I have had more success with gourds that have Starling resistant openings. Prior to that, one year I had Starlings fighting with the Martins & actually killing a female. I was unaware that could happen.
    The best way I’ve found to eliminate House Sparrows is to open the houses when you see Martins in the area in the Spring & be persistent about removing the Sparrow nests.
    Travis Audubon offers Purple Martin parties in July. Check our calendar for dates & time. It really is amazing to see!

  29. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Stephanie, Thank you for submitting your recording. It is a puzzlement. I consulted with several birders without a definitive result. The general consensus is that the sound is not a local native bird. One suggested that it might not be a bird after all. Other suggestions included a caged or escaped bird.
    Of course, the best thing would be to actual see the bird / & or get a picture. Good luck!

  30. Jon Parmentier says:

    I would like to become a purple martin landlord. I have read that house sparrows often take over martin houses. One way to prevent this is to use gourds, but I prefer the look of wooden houses. I have seen photos of large multi-unit martin houses with small, single unit houses hanging beside them. To prevent house sparrow invasion, could I hang a cluster of single unit wooden houses, much in the style that gourds are hung?

  31. Stephanie says:

    We’re having trouble identifying a bird we keep hearing up in the trees outside our central Austin apartment building. We hear the bird during the day, mostly in the morning around 9am. It has one call/song that it repeats, but with long pauses between (30sec or longer). Since the pauses are so long, we haven’t had any luck spotting where the sound is coming from! I was able to capture a recording of the sound, you can listen here:

  32. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Jennifer.
    A big, totally black bird does limit it to a few species. The Common Raven, American Crow and Chihuahua Raven are all infrequent to your area. By far the biggest of the 3 is the Common Raven @ about 27 inches long with a very large beak. Both the American Crow and Chihuahua Raven are about 20 inches with moderate to large size bills. The easiest way to determine the species is through the call. Bird Academy by Cornell has a great YouTube playing both crow and raven. The site AllAboutBirds.Org is also a good source for bird calls. Hope this helps!

  33. BirdAnswers says:

    Hello Cindi,
    With Purple Finches and House Finches, the female incubates the eggs. The male will bring food to her and may be nearby. Once the eggs hatch, both the male and female will feed the babies.
    You didn’t say where you live, so I have to assume it is in the North. Our finches here in Texas are House Finches. They’re pretty, but not as vibrant as your Purple Finches. Check out the website for additional information.

  34. Jennifer says:

    Hi! I live in West Texas, just south of Abilene. I was sitting in my living room and started to hear our cows hollering and my kingbirds and barn swallows were going crazy! Then I heard a “caw” of some kind. When I went outside I saw the largest black bird I’ve ever seen in Texas. I thought I was seeing a Raven. It was not a grackle and was much larger than a crow. I’m trying to figure out what bird I saw so I can put my sighting in my bird book. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a raven anywhere other than Colorado (common raven), so maybe I could have been seeing a really large crow, or even a Chihuahuan Raven. Can you help me identify? Are Ravens in my area?

  35. Cindi says:

    Purple finches made a nest in a hanging basket. Eggs are there, female is nesting, but I have not seen the male for several days. Is this normal? What happens if the male has become prey for some other animal? Will the female be able to feed the babies alone???

  36. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Carl,
    What a nice yard you must have, possibly with some water nearby? Have you seen any hatchling herons? You probably know that they will look somewhat different from adults with some thin white striping on the neck and small white spots on the wings, but will still have the thick bill and red iris.
    You were right when asking about Yellow-Crowned Night Herons seen at the coast. They are fairly common in the winter on the coastal prairies from Matagorda Southward.
    They commonly breed throughout Texas, but rarely in the Panhandle,or through the western Edwards Plateau into the Transpecos. They have been known to breed as far North as some areas in Minnesota.
    Being a nest landlord can be a lot of fun. Enjoy!

  37. Carl says:

    I have a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron nest in the trees in my front yard in Manchaca. Is this a rarity to have them nest this far from the coast? I found 3 hatched shells on the ground and have pictures of mommy at the nest. In the back yard I have a Cooper’s Hawk Nest.

  38. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you for sharing the pelican sighting with us. American White Pelicans are impressive birds, especially when seen in a large group like that. Most A.W.Pelicans breed in the interior of the continent with a few breeding colonies reported near the Texas coast. The interior birds migrate into Texas starting in September. The pelicans that are seen in other parts of Texas during the summer are thought to be non-breeding birds. I could find very few reports of American White Pelican’s on Decker/ Walter E. Long Lake. But, in 2015, large numbers of pelicans were reported on Granger Lake through the middle of June.
    Hope they left some fish in the lake for your son & brother-in-law.

  39. Tom Hattrup says:

    Tuesday evening, May 31st, my son and brother-in-law were fishing out at Decker Lake. They saw (and photographed) a large flock of over 80 White Pelicans. My brother-in-law said in all the years of fishing at Decker he has never seen them before. Does anyone know if this is an out of the ordinary sighting this time of year? Thanks

  40. Laura Dow says:

    Thanks for your response. I see that Doug Williams also asked about Scott’s Orioles. He is a few miles from my house. If he wishes to contact me about birding out here and swap stories, please feel free to give him my email address. I don’t know how else to contact folks on this forum.

  41. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Laura,
    Congratulations on having the Scott’s Orioles around. They’re lovely birds. I haven’t heard of that specifically, but it sounds like he’s figured out how to get the extra calories to them in a way that would be difficult if he were just trying to take some jelly to them. I actually hadn’t heard of jelly feeders until now, but will note that when I go to The Omelettry for breakfast, I also track down the concord grape jelly. Sometimes bird behavior can surprise us. Keep the jelly out.

  42. Laura Dow says:

    We have a pair of Scott’s Orioles that nest around here each year and come to both the hummingbird feeders and the jelly feeder that we put up (they will only eat grape jelly, not even the fresh fruit we’ve tried to give them). We live in Western Travis county near the preserve FYI. This year the male has several times come to the feeder with a grasshopper in its beak and dipped it repeatedly in the jelly, then flew off, presumably to feed it to its young.I have numerous good photos of this, as well as the fledglings last year if anyone wants to see them. My question is, has anyone ever heard of this type of behavior before? We find it fascinating.
    Thanks, Laura Dow

  43. Alan Bair says:

    Follow-up on woodpecker,

    Yep, everyone likes dessert 🙂 I’ll have to see if she can get some pictures of the woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder.

    I may have seen a Red-Bellied where I live in the OakHill area, William Cannon and MoPac. But at my feeders I have a pair of the Golden-Fronted with the distinct yellow nape and orange/red cap. I also have a Downy and/or Hairy which are hard to tell apart. They come fairly regularly when I have suet out.

    PS: Have been watching what I am fairly certain is a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron feeding in a nearby water retention pond.

  44. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Alan,
    I’ve not heard of woodpeckers at hummingbird feeders, and they are normally insectivores. But, I’ve seen warblers feed at them and starlings. I suspect that any bird figuring out there’s something good there will return.

    Also, I don’t know what part of Austin you’re in, but the more common woodpecker in town is the red-bellied. But golden-fronted the more common in the hill country. So they’re right next door. There used to be a colony of golden-fronted in the cemetery at Chicon and MLK.

  45. Alan Bair says:


    Here in Austin I get Golden-fronted Woodpeckers at my seed and suit feeders. My sister in San Antonio also has the same visitor to her feeders. However, over the last week or so she has one of these woodpeckers that at first started peeking on her hummingbird feeder. Now it visits on a regular basis to drink the sugar water, almost like a hummingbird. I checked on the web, but did not find any indications of this kind of feeding. I also don’t think sugar water fits in with their normal diet. So is this something they may do or an unusual occurrence?

  46. BirdAnswers says:

    Assuming the configuration is that of a hawk or eagle, there are a couple of possibilities that come immediately to mind. First, we have bald eagles in the area these days, and immature bald eagles are mostly black or very dark brown with a varied amount of light mottling on the underside that may or may not be very apparent. They’ve become more common as the Southern population has become much more numerous as it’s recovered from the disaster of broadcasting of DDT, which almost extirpated it. That’s a possibility. Also, Zone-tailed hawks have been seen more commonly in this area in the last several years. Their range may be expanding northward as the world warms up. That seems to me to be the most likely of the very dark hawks that might be seen here. I do think hawk or eagle.

  47. Tekina-eirú Maynard says:

    Hi! I live in Wells Branch. A couple of time this week there has been a *very* large big black bird flying over head at a fast speed (both times with another bird). As he flew overhead he was screeching very loudly. I would have guessed hawk, but he was black. I would have guessed vulture but they dont screech, so appreciate your best guess. (PS: happy for all to see your reply on this wall, but if you could also send your reply by email would greatly appreciate it. Don’t know if I will be able to return back to this page).

  48. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Doug,

    This is only a guess, but I checked the Cornell Lab site and looked at Summer and Scarlet Tanager, which are about the only tanager-shaped birds with red heads in these parts. I also took a look at House Finches because the adult males can have pretty red heads and shoulders. My best guess is that this is one of the tanagers, a young male in in-between plumage at some stage of a molt. I tend to favor Summer T, from the pics on that site there’s a good bit of variation in that in-between plumage. But it’s just a guess. Sorry not to be more certain.

  49. Doug Williams says:

    While I was working on the porch a few minutes ago a red-head bird who seemed to be fearless came onto the porch and sat on the fan blade above me- a very loud melodious call which it kept up- it moved back and forth between fans and a ledge where I put a birdhouse, and finally ate a couple of wasp grubs from a wasp nest that was difficult for a bird to reach, required hovering almost like a hummingbird. The bird had a pretty solid red head and back, darker gray wings and a creamy color underbody, black eyes and a light yellowish bill. It was shaped something like a tanager (I know they like wasps) It was maybe 7 or 8 inches long. Went back out to see if bird would come back, wasp nest is gone! I can’t find anything like that in my bird book. Do you have any idea what it could be?

  50. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi SK,

    What you’re hearing during the day is white-winged doves. The males courtship call is quite similar and very loud, and there are a lot of them courting in Austin at this time. They’ll start at about dawn and keep it up throughout the day. They may begin to pipe down as more of them go to nest. But in this area, they will rear more than one clutch over the spring and summer, so many of them will go through the courtship multiple times. I would not expect them to be common in Kentucky, although they have been expanding their range north and eastward. So it’s possible. As nearly as I can tell, they are not one of the dove species introduced in Hawaii. But perhaps one of the others has a similar call. You can find a recording of their call at Birds of North America online, but I’m not sure if nonmembers can access that. There are also sound at The Internet Bird Collection, Hope this helps.

  51. SK says:

    I am totally perplexed. We are visiting Austin and I keep hearing a bird (during the day) that makes various sounds, most commonly a “who who who whooooo”, but also makes others. I think I have also heard this bird in Hawaii – and my husband thinks he’s heard it in Kentucky. Any ideas?

  52. BirdAnswers says:


    The best way to document your sightings would be to use the online bird database called eBird, which is run by Cornell University. You can set up an account and can then submit your observations. You can document breeding by posting photos of a nest (if you happen to find one) or of young birds that come to your feeder. The following link will take you to the page online where you can set up you eBird account.

  53. Doug Williams says:

    I am following up on the Scott’s Orioles- I actually live on Lindeman Lane, Leander. I’m not really anywhere close to Leander; Im pretty close to Jonestown. I’m sure the orioles are breeding here, there are at least 2 males (I’ve seen them together) and females. They got here around the beginning of April and I see them every day on the hummingbird feeder. The same birds (I suspect) were here last summer, and they became more numerous as the summer went on. They were here all summer, there seemed to be young birds at the feeder toward the end of summer. I didn’t think much about it so I didn’t record sightings or dates last summer. I’m pretty sure they are scott’s orioles because (the males) are lemon yellow with black heads and backs. I could send you a picture for verification I suppose. What does it require to establish breeding in an area? I’ll do that if it looks doable.

  54. BirdAnswers says:

    The range of Scott’s Orioles extends just into western Travis County, and sightings are recorded in the western half of Austin and around Lake Travis on an annual basis. So while they are not a common bird in the area, it is very possible to have them visiting you yard, especially in you live in the western half of Travis County. If they stay all summer, it might be possible for you to document breeding in the county, which would be really cool!

  55. Doug Williams says:

    Are Scott’s orioles common in the Austin area? All of my bird books say they are a west Texas bird- but I have several that are visiting my hummingbird feeder. They have been coming for couple of years.

  56. BirdAnswers says:


    Barred Owls are know to prey on Eastern Screech-Owls, so it is possible that your male screech-owl might have fallen victim to the Barred Owls in your neighborhood. Great Horned Owls are also known to prey on screech-owls. Hopefully, the female screech-owl will be able to raise her family without the help of her mate.

  57. BirdAnswers says:


    It is possible that your missing Blue Jays are related to recent outbreaks of the West Nile Virus in your area. The virus seems to be especially hard on the family of birds known as Corvids, which includes birds such as American Crows and Blue Jays. However, most populations eventually rebound which might explain why you are seeing Blue Jays again in your yard.

  58. BirdAnswers says:


    I cannot think of a bird call that matches your description. As you noted, it does not sound like an owl or other night-calling birds such as Chuck-will’s-Widow or Whip-poor-will nor does it sound like any of the birds that occasionally call at night such as Northern Mockingbirds. I think what you are hearing may be a frog or a gecko of some type, both of these would be much more likely to make a sound that does not vary and would call all night.

  59. Kevin says:

    I have had a pair of Eastern Screech Owls in my nest box for (4) seasons. This year after the female laid her eggs the male was roosted 10 feet from the nest as usual. Well its been about a week and I haven’t seen him or heard him. The female is doing all the hunting and watching. There has been a Bared Owl in the area for weeks now calling for his mate. Could the male been attacked and gone? Thank you, Kevin

  60. Alice Wooley says:

    Where have all the Blue Jays gone? There is one in our yard now, but seeing it made me realize it’s been a VERY long time (years, maybe) since the last time I saw one. We live between Temple & Austin, Tx.

  61. Jene says:

    Just moved to south Austin to partial wooded area. About three nights ago a pair of birds arrived at night, could hear them calling to each other – with non-stop calling from I assume the male, and his calls now go unanswered. To sleep, I have to close the window. Just wonder what species this could be, never heard a call like that before. It’s two syllable, with two seconds in between each call. Very loud, and non-stop all night long, the same sound, never varies. It’s completely dark so I can’t see him, just how can I identify what species? This is not the ho of an owl. Don’t want to disturb it with flashlight or anything.

  62. BirdAnswers says:


    Similar to Cindy’s sighting below, I think the birds you saw are migrating Double-crested Cormorants. Young birds have a pale neck and breast that could appear whitish, and sunlight on the darker feathers of adults can also appear whitish depending on light conditions. These birds are migrating in large flocks at this time of the year and are often seen flying along Lady Bird Lake at MoPac. Follow this link and look at photo 7 of 7 to see a Double-crested Cormorant in flight and see if it might be what you saw:

  63. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Cindy,

    It is possible that the birds you saw were Double-crested Cormorants. Most geese have already headed north, so it would be unlikely to see so many at this time of the year; however, this is prime time for Double-crested Cormorants to be migrating, and their large flocks can often appear quite duck or goose-like.

  64. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Mimi,
    The birds you saw were Franklin’s Gulls migrating north to their breeding grounds in the northern Great Plains in Canada and states such as North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. They are common migrants at this time of the year and have been passing through in good numbers over the last several days. If you are interested in learning more about these unique gulls, please follow this link:

  65. Angel says:

    My husband called me out of the house several times to see several hundreds of birds flocking together, some in a V position, but not all of them doing so although they were following each other. I missed the first couple of flocks coming through as by the time I went outside to look they were gone. But I hung out after the third time of missing them to finally see them. Seemed like 50 to 100 in each sweep. This was on 4/17 around 6:00 and I saw them again today 4/18 on my way back from work crossing over the bridge at Lady Bird Lake on MOPAC heading south, I saw several similar flocks. We tried to look them up on the web but can’t seem to find any reference to any bird similar in color to these birds.. They had a dark body and wing, but a lot of white in the head area. Any ideas what were have been looking at?

  66. Cindy says:

    Flocks of what I thought were geese flew over Granite Shoals, Sunday 4/17/16, around 8pm. There were literally thousands of them, I counted almost 13 strings of nearly a hundred birds per string, they did fly in a “v” pattern. They were headed north east. I never heard any of them honk, if they were geese. Any ideas, anyone else spot them?

  67. Mimi says:

    I was sitting outside in East Austin and I thought I heard seagulls. I thought that was odd and I looked up and saw what I thought like seagulls flying very high up in a circle and then off into a straight line heading north. Were those seagulls?

  68. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Suellen,
    The birds you describe could very well have been migrating hawks, possibly Swainson’s Hawks or Broad-winged Hawks, both of which are species that migrate in large flocks that will often circle, or kettle. Hawks and a few other migrants will kettle where there is an updraft. They use the rising air to gain altitude before leaving the updraft to glide to the next updraft, which they try to reach by using as little energy as possible, i.e., gliding while not flapping their wings. It is a very efficient method of migration. Other migrants that may form kettles include American White Pelicans and Anhingas.

  69. Suellen Maloney says:

    I am a beginner bird watcher. Yesterday, in the parking lot of Central Market in South Austin, I saw a very large flock of birds in the distance swirling around to the north west of where I was. There appeared to hundreds of them and even though they were in the distance, I believe they were large birds. The unusual thing about them to me was that they were not flying in a straight direction, but swirling around in lazy circles. They were in no rush to go anywhere. I’m sorry I don’t have a better description, but they were far away and I didn’t have binoculars with me. Do you have any idea what they were?

  70. BirdAnswers says:

    The two most likely hummingbirds to visit feeders and flowers in our area are Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds pass through our area as migrants in the spring and then again in late summer. Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive in March and spend the summer as our only breeding hummingbird. Males of both of these species can appear “black” or very dark if they are seen in the shade without sunlight to show their iridescent colors; both also have a white “collar” below their throats that can contrast quite sharply with their throats when they are dark and their iridescent colors are not showing. As the name implies, the Black-chinned Hummingbird has a black throat with a thin band of purple at the base that shows only in the best of light, so the male does indeed look black/dark most of the time and is my best guess for what you saw.

  71. BirdAnswers says:

    It sounds like your yard was visited by a hungry and efficient flock of Cedar Waxwings. Cedar Waxwings are winter visitors in Central Texas and spend their time in roving flocks looking for their favorite (and in winter, only) food – berries of all kinds. Typically Cedar Waxwings have a well-defined yellow band at the end of their tails, although sometimes it can appear orange. They also have red-tipped feathers that form a band across their wings, which may have been what you saw as they quickly flew in and out of the berry bush. You can visit this website for more information on these interesting birds and scroll through the photographs for a look, including one with a reddish orange tail band:

  72. Walt Z. says:

    We live in Bee Cave, Tx, and last week on March 29th, about mid afternoon, outside our kitchen window is a flowering Red Yucca plant. Around this plant for a while, was a black looking hummingbird feeding. It had a very starkly white area on the front of its chest. It looked like a South American Inca hummingbird, but would it fly this far North right now? Only saw it once so far. Anyone have info on this hummingbird?

  73. Linda Pickering says:

    Help! I had a large flock of new birds show up in my yard this weekend. Usually the mockingbirds strip my pyracantha berries, but this year these birds stripped the bush in 15 minutes. They were very fast and did not stay in one place long. They would snatch a berry and fly to treetops far enough away I could not see them plainly. They were a gray-brownish (brownish-gray?) and the one distinctive thing that I finally saw was a a very well defined red band on the end of the tail feathers. These birds were fast! Cannot find anything in my bird book and online i.d. is so vague with their questions, there was not really a place to note the one thing that would probably place the i.d.-the tail feathers. Have you a clue I could look up and compare?

  74. BirdAnswers says:

    I would clean out the bird house each year in any event. I think it is likely that the adults survived, although they obviously were not able to defend the other hatchlings. As to why there are no nesting birds this year, I don’t know. Scent is not an issue as no songbirds have a sense of smell. But cleaning it out won’t hurt, and it may not be too late to get residents this year. Many species nest multiple times, especially in places like central Texas that have extended warm seasons. To prevent snakes, you’ll have to hang the nest somewhere unreachable by them. Hope this helps.

  75. Allison Nagel says:

    Last year, a friend gave me a beautiful hand made bird house that I hung up on my back porch. A bird family moved in right away and had three babies. I watched one baby bird practice flying lessons and then fly the nest. There were still two babies left in the nest at the end of that day. The next morning I went out to discover that the bird house was occupied by a snake. I do not know if the parents survived, but I do know that the snake was so fat that it couldn’t leave for several days. This spring, I watched as several birds entered the bird house and then quickly left again. There are no nesting birds in it this year. My question is, will birds ever occupy it again? Also, how do I prevent snakes from eating the occupants? Should I clean out the old nest?

  76. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Adriane,
    Egyptian geese are largely terrestrial animals that do not generally spend a great deal of time in water, I would think the kids would be best off taken out of the water when you have a chance to do that. But they can swim so probably won’t be harmed by their time in the water. What you might try doing is putting a board ramp into the ponds, maybe a 2×6 that is several feet long, that they might be able to walk up and see what happens with that. Otherwise, how much effort you put into rescuing them should probably be determined by how eager you are to have more of them on the property. Hope this helps.

  77. Adriane Horne says:

    We have Egyptian geese on property that have had babies. Some people are concerned that we are not doing anything to “protect” them. Is it best to let nature takes its course or do we need to intervene to keep the babies out of harms way. For example we have ponds that do not have slopes leading into them. They just drop straight down into the water. The babies keep getting led into these ponds by the parents and then can not get back out. Do we need to “rescue” them or let what ever happens, happens?

  78. BirdAnswers says:

    Vicki, perhaps you already know this, but Cedar Waxwings are generally only winter residents in Central Texas. By late March most will have migrated northward to their summer breeding grounds. And they almost certainly will leave your back yard as soon as they have eaten most of the ligustrum berries. Meanwhile, perhaps we’ll soon get some nice rains that will wash away most of the berry stains.

  79. Vicki G. says:

    2-21-16 …. Cedar Waxwings are here in New Braunfels, Texas!! Ask me how I know??? Their dark purple poo is literally raining down on every single surface of our home, deck, brick pavers, patio funiture, you name it! We have no “berry trees” in our yard, but behind our home in the alley is a wild ligustrum with tons of berries. It is an old growth tree & since it’s growing in an easement, we are considering paying ourselves to have it removed. Cedar Waxwings are a cool looking bird, but their “profuse purple poo” is a complete nuisance! When the nasty poo falls, it literally sounds like hail on our new, metal roof. Have NEVER seen them in our area or had the poo issue until this year. Guess the rains of last year produced a bumper crop of ligustrum berries. Disgusting!!

  80. BirdAnswers says:

    By what you said regarding the behavior, it certainly seems to me that the birds were indeed vultures. When Turkey Vultures are in flight (i.e., viewed from below), their bodies and the leading edges of their wings look black. However, when they are sitting on the ground and there is good lighting, especially with sunlight on them, they look brownish, or perhaps even buff colored.

  81. Missie says:

    While looking at the deer this morning around 8 am over on the Riata side of the Flextronics facilities (Oak Knoll/183), my kids and I saw a VERY large (initially thought it was a vulture) eating what looked like a rabbit. While watching another bird came in and they both “shared”. The birds were buff colored down to their shoulders with some dark detailing and then darker below. Anyway, I was just wondering if you had a guess to what we saw. We drive and hike around often and are more familiar with types of birds than probably the average person, however, we certainly are not experts! I have lived in Austin all my life and my husband works at Flex and has for 15+ years and I haven’t ever seen a bird that looked like this before.

  82. Jerry Cunningham says:

    Who else is seeing the 500+ Black-bellied Whistlers west of Marble Falls? I see them every day, morning and evening going from a roost towards Lake Buchanan and daytime trip to the Colorado River area below Wirtz Dam. I would love to see this large group of Whistlers on the ground. They have been here for about 2 months.

  83. BirdAnswers says:

    Dora, Cedar Waxwings love to eat berries and probably start their winters in areas which have the most berries. Cedar or juniper berries are abundant in the country, so they undoubtedly start in those areas and, as those berries are depleted, they will work their way into the city to eat berries from both native and ornamental plants. They probably initially begin in greenbelts, parks, and other areas where such fruits are found in abundance, before working their way to neighborhoods where types of plants are more diverse. I believe where there is a profusion of berries in a relatively large area, you’ll see larger flocks of Cedar Waxwings. However, when they are checking out a very few trees that have berries, they will be in smaller flocks, since the competition among the birds means the less aggressive ones might have more difficulty getting enough to eat.

  84. Dora Smith says:

    How come I never see cedar waxwings in Austin until March or so, if they spend hte winter here? I always see them in small flocks – not large flocks. They’re a sure sign of early spring in northwest Austin!

  85. BirdAnswers says:

    Sarah, Cedar Waxwings arrive in Central Texas from about mid-October to early December and some probably arrived in San Antonio during that period. I participated in several Christmas Bird Counts in Central Texas last month and we saw a few during each Count. They are attracted to berries, so perhaps the areas where you’ve looked for them don’t have many berries this year, or maybe other birds have already eaten them. The waxwings should linger for another month or two, so keep your ears attuned to their very high frequency vocalizations or search for them particularly in trees which have berries.
    Good luck, Jean

  86. Sarah Cochran says:

    When will the Cedar Waxwings arrive in San Antonio 2016?

  87. admin says:


    I remember past customers at my previous employment (Wild Birds Unlimited) having similar issues. Many times it turned out that either a squirrel, bee, or hornet family had made a nest inside the box and rendering it useless for an owl.

    What kind of owl box is it? All owls are very territorial especially this time of year because their hatchlings are usually growing and are very
    demanding. Screech Owl will command an area of approximately 3-5 city blocks while Great Horned Owls will command an area 2-3X that area during the nesting season. The aerial coverage is a moving number as variables such as food supply come into play.

    I’m very flexible with my time as I’m now self-employed and would be more than happy to drop by your house sometime convenient for both of us.

    Let me know what works and we’ll make it happen!

    Charles J Stephens

  88. Eric Ramberg says:

    I have had an owl house in a tree in my back yard in residential area 2 miles from the “Y” in Oak Hill for 18 months and no owls. At night I hear them so I know they are in the area. Is there anyone that come visit my yard and advise me on what I am doing wrong?


  89. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Several of the hawks and owls resident in Austin are capable of taking small pets, and since you’ve had this experience I think it would prudent to accompany your dogs when they’re outside. Since this was at night I’d be most suspicious of owls, and I think Barred, Great Horned, or possibly even Barn Owls could take a small dog. The circling is a bit puzzling as I believe owls usually go directly for the kill. Barn Owls, however, fly low and hunt by sound. Maybe your presence caused whatever it was to hold up and circle. But I suppose it could have been a Red-tailed Hawk if there was enough light in your neighborhood to hunt by sight. But any of these birds might pose a threat to a small dog or a cat. Great Horned Owls, for instance, regularly take skunks, and skunks are reasonably large critters. Hope this helpe.

  90. Cindy says:

    Dec 5 at 3 am my little dog went outside. I went in to get a treat to coax him in. When I came back out there was a bird circling overhead. It didn’t stop when I came out. It was pretty close so I shouted and it went away. It was too dark for me to see features. It wasn’t extremely large but maybe like a brown seagull. Should I be worried about my dogs? They love their 3:00 am time.

  91. Bird Answers says:


    I think that if you position the Purple Martin houses as close as possible to the open field and as far away from trees as possible, you have a good chance to attract Purple Martins in the spring. Purple Martins start arriving in February, so be sure have your houses up by then. You will also need to be diligent about keeping House Sparrows and European Starlings out of the houses. In case you are not already aware of this website, the Purple Martin Conservation Association has a great website that has all kinds of wonderful information about Purple Martins and becoming a Purple Martin landlord. Their website can be found at the following link:

    Good luck!

  92. Bird Answers says:


    Without a little bit more of a physical description, it is hard to say what type of birds you saw, but several bird species migrate in large groups and “kettle” in a spiral pattern to gain elevation before continuing on with their migration. As you noted, American White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes are possibilities as are several hawk species including Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks. Turkey Vultures are another possibility. If you can provide more detail, we might be able to narrow it down to a single species.

  93. Bird Answers says:


    Based on your description, the hawks you saw sound like Broad-winged Hawks – broad wings, short tail (black and white striped on adults if seen close enough), and mostly pale wings with black tips and black trailing edge are good identifying features for this hawk. The other hawk species that tends to migrate in large swirling kettles are Swainson’s Hawks. Swainson’s Hawks have a relatively long-tailed, long winged appearance. The wings also appear fairly pointed and are two-toned underneath, pale on the leading half and dark on trailing half.

    Most migrant hawks have passed through at this point in the fall, but look for them again in the spring.

  94. Lori says:

    I recently moved to a new home and I’m interested in putting up Purple Martin houses in the yard. I do understand the responsibilities of being a good landlord for these birds. However, after reading some information about housing, I am wondering if my yard is suitable. I live on 3/4 acres on a creek. There are several trees in my yard and a somewhat open field can be found in my neighbor’s yard. I think they would enjoy the insects that the freshwater creek attracts, but worried the number of large trees may be a deterrent. If I position the homes so that they are near the creek and my neighbor’s open field, do you think this would work? Any suggestions? Thanks!!
    (Btw, I love those Purple Martin parties y’all host!!)

  95. David Pointer says:

    Sunday, October 25, 2015, at 1400 hours
    Does anyone know what type of birds just flew from north to south directly over Grapevine Lake toward DFW Airport. There were hundreds of individuals. They stretched out for several miles, however some groups congregated together in a spiral pattern. These were large birds the size of Pelicans or Cranes.

  96. Doug says:

    This morning (Oct 11) a great swirling group of hawks passed over NW Austin. Looked all about the same – broad wings, short tails, lots of pale color underneath. Some associated vultures. Broad-winged hawks?? What are the best identifying features?

  97. BirdAnswers says:


    Unfortunately I do not have any great ideas as to what you might be hearing. The birds you describe would seem to be Common Nighthawks, but the high-pitched sounds do not match. One thought I did have was Killdeer as they have a variety of higher-pitched calls and are often heard calling as they fly overhead. If you are still hearing the bird(s), you may try recording them on your phone (or some other device) and sending the audio file to us at and we can try to identify the mystery bird that way.

    Good luck.

  98. Mark Hogendobler says:

    I’ve been going crazy trying to figure out which species of bird I hear mostly in the early evening. They seem to be flying solo or in pairs, and they emit a series of two-note whistles, very high in pitch (playing around online with a tone generator, I’m thinking its about 3900 Hz). A couple of times I caught a glimpse of what I thought was the bird making the in-flight call, and it looks like a nighthawk, with the white line under the wing. But I haven’t found any nighthawk call online that sounds remotely like what I’m hearing. The birds I am hearing are clearly very common, as I hear them all the time near my house in East Austin and downtown. But they don’t fly in large groups, and I usually hear only one or two birds calling out as they fly above, moving quickly across the sky. Everything but the sound tells me they’re nighthawks, but the call I hear doesn’t seem to line up with the deeper sounds of nighthawks. Any thoughts?

  99. BirdAnswers says:

    I do not really have a good explanation for why the gulls were behaving like they were. Perhaps they were taking advantage of some sort of wind draft rising off the dune that allowed them to gain altitude without too much effort on their part, and once at a higher altitude they could scan better for food items. Possibly the flocking behavior was an advantage as there were more eyes available to watch for schools of small fish or other prey items, and the flight pattern continued as long as they were actively hunting.

  100. BirdAnswers says:

    A couple of places that I would recommend that may be reachable by public transportation include The Triangle Pond (Least Grebes, Wood Duck, Green Heron) and Laguna Gloria/Mayfield Preserve. Try the following links for more information about these sites:,-97.7337529,16.57z
    You should also receive an email to which you can respond if you would like more information.

  101. Christine Sammel says:

    We have a house on the Michigan shore of Lake Michigan, a bit north of 43 degrees north latitude. This evening we went to the beach and there were 20 or so gulls circling seemingly endlessly in a figure eight pattern above a small dune next to the water. They did not land. From the center point they would fly about 100 yards in one direction, turn around, fly to the middle, sometimes circle back and sometimes go about 100 yards in the other direction before turning around and doing the pattern again. Some would fly straight up near the center point, then sort of stall and flutter down before continuing their flight. We walked down to a vantage point but could not see that there was anything on the ground. People walked by on the beach, but that didn’t seem to alter the gulls’ behavior. They did not call, but did squawk when they came close to colliding. About half would be going in one direction while the other half would be going in the other direction.
    We’d be very interested in ideas about what was going on.

  102. Mike Pinnock says:

    I’m travelling from the UK with my son to Kansas in early September (we’re going to the Winfield Festival). We’re flying into Austin and have decided to spend five days there. Our trip in really centred around our love of US acoustic music – but I was thinking about indulging one of my other passions – bird watching. Can anyone suggest any locations where I might spend a quiet few hours? (bearing in mind I’ll be relying on public transport). We’re staying in the south-east corner of downtown. Thank-you in anticipation. Mike

  103. Katherine Utz says:

    Hi Charles,

    Yes, that’s the sound and the images match, too. I’ll have to learn more about the Common Nighthawk now! Thank you so much!!


  104. Charley says:

    There is a lone pelican on Lake LBJ. He has been there at least since the spring of 2014. He seems to have one wing that isn’t just right. He can flap them ,but one hangs low when folded by his body. He seems happy, fishes all day and right now stays on my dock all night. I think he is doing fine, but is there anything he might need or might be a danger for him? The lakeside neighborhood has named him or her Perry.

  105. Brenda Caillouet says:

    This weekend I stepped outside of my Hillcountry cabin in Junction and heard a loud buzzing noise I thought was a chain saw- but it was coming from a bird that looked and acted like a large brown/ grey woodpecker. It was not traditional drumming noises it was like a giant humming bird noise. When the bird put their beak into a hole in the post the sound muffled. After about a minute it flew off and the sound totally stopped, did not hear again. I search internet and can’t find anything like it out there. It wAs about 730- 8 am.

  106. BirdAnswers says:

    Dee Dee,

    It is very hard to speculate on what may have targeting your owlets. There are a few types of predators of owls and the main one that comes to mind is the Great Horned Owl. How far along were the owlets? Barn Owls are cavity dwellers that stay in the cavity until they are rather mature so I wondered if perhaps something happened to their cavity to force them outside and to be exposed? As far as the martin house, almost all the versions that I’ve seen work on a pulley system. Have you tried to loosen the rope or tug at it to see if the pulley is just jammed or something? If you need further help, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I used to help landowners install martin homes and would be open to trying to help you if I’m around your area at some point in time.

    -Charles J. Stephens

  107. BirdAnswers says:


    The most likely candidate to your question is the Common Nighthawk given how you have described its characteristics and vocalization.
    Check out this YouTube link to confirm what you saw/heard: Common Nighthawk

    If this is not your bird, then please get back to us and I’ll try to get you an answer.

    -Charles J. Stephens

  108. Dee Dee Davidson Berry says:

    Two questions for Audo’s: 1) We’ve had bar owl females w/young. 1w/3 in our live oak last year and now 1 w/2 in our huge magnolia. One kit fell last year. It was alive, 2 days, then disappeard. This year, 1 kit, I found dead w/plucked out eye, body warm, feathers stunningly beautiul. Mom sat up on a larger lower brach looking as I box up baby for 311 animal colletion.Next week, (last week) another baby dead – in back yard! Mangled. What to think of these baby owl deaths?
    2) When I bought this house 16 years ago, it had, and still does, a purple martin 2 story 16 cubbys house. Way up on pole. Ropes hang down but I have no clue how to lower the house. When that happens, I’ll research what to do then. Thanks so much.

  109. Katherine Utz says:

    I’ve been trying to determine this type of bird on my own with no luck and I’m going crazy! There are about four of them flying around the Arbor Trails shopping center at William Cannon Drive in Austin. Their wings are like swifts and have a black stripe down the underside of each wing. They are either light gray or white in color and fairly large birds. The tail looks a little bit like a “V”, I think, but not as pronounced as a swallow’s. They might be swifts or kites or something similar. All of the photos I’ve seen on the internet of swifts and kites don’t match, however. Problem is, I’ve ONLY seen them from below! They’re so fast, always in flight and up high that I haven’t been able to get a good look. They make a noise as if hunting flying insects by sonar or something (no, they aren’t bats — I’m sure! 🙂 )
    I usually can determine the type of bird that I’ve seen by using the internet, but not with this one! Please help!

  110. BirdAnswers says:

    In some bird species, the males will “attack” their own image, which is reflected in glass (doors, windows, mirrors), during breeding season. The bird does not recognize his own image and thinks it is another male intruding into his “territory,” so he will vigorously “defend” that territory by trying to chase away the perceived intruder. This behavior could continue for a few weeks, but should end within the next month or probably even less. The behavior is not likely to injure him.

  111. kathy says:

    A red tanager flies around my house pecking on windows as if he is trying to get in. He is stunning to look at, but is considered a pest. Does anyone know why he does this?

  112. Barb Sukis says:

    I live in an urban area in NE Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie. There is a large group of birds that appear to be living in the church steeple across the street. There are always about 20 or so of them circling around and chattering all day long, and I can hear them all night as well. Its a group chatter at night. I cant get a good look at them, only enough to see that they’re small and appear balck(ish) in color. At first I thought they were bats, but they’re up all day. But is there a local bird that is up all night? In la fairly large group? What are they?? Lol

  113. BirdAnswers says:

    Removal of one egg from a bird’s nest would not be likely to “upset” the adult wren that is brooding it. However, contemplating doing so presents one with a dilemma, since most species of birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Act and it is illegal to remove an egg (even a cowbird egg) from a nest unless one has a permit from the federal government to remove them. Have you searched the web for photos of brown-headed eggs so you are 100% sure that the egg in the nest is a cowbird egg? The incubation cycle for cowbird eggs is much shorter than for wrens and cowbirds normally hatch before wrens in the same nest.

  114. Dennis Brown says:

    I have a wren nest in a plant on my back deck. The wren eggs have hatched but now there is a single very light blue egg that has the wren warming rather than working on feeding her own. Will it upset her if I remove the blue, presumably cow bird egg, before it hatches??
    Thanks for letting me know.

    Dennis Brown

  115. Curtis McManus says:

    I am writing from Saskatchewan, Canada and am seeking information on a particular type of aggressive bird. In the mornings, I go for a walk on the back roads and I must pass by a marsh. When I get about 30-40 feet away from the marsh, a species of bird sends up about 8 or 10 of its members and they set up what appears to be a kind of defensive cordon around the area. One or two of this group will then swoop in and attack; they will usually swoop once or twice and then return to the ‘pack’ at which time another one will go on the offensive. The bird’s wings are dark grey, the under parts appear to be black, and the wings are tapered. It is a medium sized bird which has a clear single-note song (battle cry?). As I am leaving their territory, one of the birds will often hover directly above my head, apparently making sure that I am in fact leaving the area.

  116. BirdAnswers says:

    Toni,it is difficult to give an answer to your question about cardinals feeding on the ground, rather than at your feeders, without seeing your back yard, or a photo of it. Perhaps the cardinals don’t feel comfortable using the perches that are on your feeders. If you have platform feeders, I would expect them to like those feeders, or even the rectangular box feeders with a bar across the bottom on which they can perch. When I used tube feeders without a cage to keep away larger birds, cardinals would come to my tube feeders and perch, but wouldn’t stay very long, perhaps because they couldn’t balance well. However, they are happy to perch at my tube feeders that have a cage over them, usually by perching on the cage and reaching through the openings to the feeder openings. If these suggestions don’t help, I’d suggest you take a photo of your yard, including feeders, and show it to your local Wild Birds supply store to see if they can spot the problem and assist you.

  117. Toni Derito says:

    I have been backyard bird feeding for 20+ years in many different locations in New England…This spring I started feeding in a new location in New Milford. Ct. The cardinals will ground feed around feeders but will not perch. Is there something I’m missing or can do to help them perch?

  118. admin says:

    Hi, Paul.

    Your question is a good one and so is your answer. Yes, the whitish “hawk-like” bird undoubtedly would have been an Osprey. None of our other hawks “catch” fish.

  119. admin says:

    Hi, Susan. We sell a “Birds of The Austin, Texas, Region: A Seasonal Distribution Checklist” that provides seasonal information about birds. You can order it online ( or pick it up in our office. You can obtain information for free at:

  120. Paul Haymea says:

    Four years ago between October and February I was crossing the old Colorado River bridge at Bastrop Texas when a hawk of predominantly white color flew just above my car with a 6 to 8 inch fish in his/her talons. The fish was still wiggling. Could that hawk have been an Osprey?

  121. Susan Poelchau says:

    I’ll be visiting a workshop at Concordia College June 8-13 and would like to locate a summer bird checklist for the Austin area. Can you help?
    Susan Poelchau

  122. jimgee says:

    Is there someone there who can help me identify a small bird, with bright redish full underside, dark to black wings and upper including head to tail, with single bright green spot on its back, spotted few miles east of San Marcos May 29?

    Thanks, Jim

  123. BirdAnswers says:


    I do not have direct knowledge of falconry in this area, but I did a bit of research and learned there is a North American Falconry Association ( and a Texas Hawking Association ( They may be able to give you more information about opportunities for your son to become involved. There also is an organization in San Antonio that specializes in raptor rehabilitation, and it’s founder participates in events like the Renaissance Festival as “The King’s Falconer,” giving shows that feature birds that are trained and that cannot be released into the wild. It’s called “Last Chance Forever.” (
    Hope this helps.

  124. Amy says:

    My 8 year old son is very interested in learning about falcons and falconry. Are there any local birding resources for this? I’ve checked the Austin Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, and the Texas Hawking Association, with not much luck. Just looking for an opportunity where he could learn about these creatures up close. Thanks!

  125. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I didn’t actually know the answer to this question, so I checked with Wild Birds Unlimited. This is what they said. They said that it does work because birds do not have senses of taste or smell, but squirrels definitely do. However, they do not recommend mixing powdered peppers of any kind into the seed mix because it can get in birds’ eyes or be inhaled, which can do real damage. There are preparations of suet and solid seed blocks, however, that do not pose this danger. They carry them. Janet, at the Audubon office, says those really do deter squirrels, and she’s seen them running frantically away from her feeders when they get a taste of something hot. So that’s what I would recommend. There was one other thing. If you mix it in with your loose birdseed, it’s difficult to get a good mix, which may leave seeds that aren’t hot enough to deter the squirrels. Hope this helps.

  126. Barbara Hilliard says:

    I have heard that mixing cayenne pepper in bird seed will deter squirrels without hurting birds. I would like to make sure that this is true for all birds before trying it.

    Also would appreciate some info on how much pepper to mix with the seed. Any other tips would be helpful.


  127. Carlaine says:

    I just saw a bird I. Lakeway Texas. It was small and thin in the body. Had a bright yellow body and a very, very long tail.

  128. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Betsy,

    I do not think you are crazy and I do think it is very possible that you saw a Crested Caracara in your son’s yard. Crested Caracara are fairly common in the blackland prairie and coastal prairies south/southeast of Austin and can even be found in the hill country. They prefer open to semi-open habitat such as old agricultural fields and pastures, which generally describes the area around Pflugerville. Caracaras are really fun birds and I’m glad you got the chance to see one during your visit!

  129. Betsy Anne Pelz says:

    I am visiting my son from Massachusetts. Yesterday, I think I saw a crested caracara in his yard in a somewhat rural habitat in Pflugerville. Am I crazy?

    This somewhat large yard has a very tall hedge of small trees, as well as a full compliment of what seem to be small nesting birds, who were out in force to mob this very large bird, which hung about in the yard, on the fence and on the roof of the house next door before it flew away. Of course I did not have my camera handy. Once in Corpus Christi, I saw a caracara about a mile away. So I have a sense of the bird…

    My (excited) impression of this Phlugerville bird was black and white, a lot of white, big, with a black crest. It was the imperturbability of the bird that was paramount.

    My question actually is – what other bird could this have been? Or could I have seen the crested caracara in Phlugerville?

    I would so appreciate your answer!

  130. BirdAnswers says:


    Painted Buntings are common summer residents throughout the Austin area; however, they are just now starting to return to the area, so I suggest waiting a week or two before beginning your search. That would allow time for the males to arrive on territory and really crank up the song volume. In my experience, the easiest way to find a Painted Bunting is to learn its song so that you can recognize it in the field and use it to guide you to the singer. You can listen to its song at this website . Be sure to listen to the “Western” song as that is representative of the birds we have here. Painted Buntings can be found at many of our local parks such as Hamilton Pool Preserve, Milton Reimer’s Ranch Park, Westcave Preserve, and Hornsby Bend to name a few. They can be found just about anywhere there is a combination of open areas with brushy, weedy edge habitat. You may consider joining a Travis Audubon field trip or bird walk as a way to visit new places and learn local bird songs.

    Good luck!

  131. BirdAnswers says:


    I am not very familiar with birds in England, but I consulted my copy of Collins Pocket Guide Birds of Britain & Europe and two possible candidates might be Hen Harrier or Hooded Crow. Hen Harrier does not appear to be as dark overall as you described but lighting may have made them appear darker. Hooded Crow is black and pale gray with the pale gray generally matching the areas you describe as white, which again may have appeared lighter depending on the lighting. If you have any other details such as wing shape, flight pattern, or calls, if heard, please let me know as it might be helpful in making an ID.

  132. Judy Ochoa says:

    My goal this year is to see a Painted Bunting. I live in Cedar Park but am willing to hit the road to see one. Please advise good sites to make this happen.
    Thank you

  133. Michael Smith says:

    I saw a small group of perhaps 6 or 8 largish (big gull? small rook?) birds flying over Cambridge, England. These had unusual colouring – mostly black (or black against the daytime sky) with a distinctive white belly and half of the wing, from body towards wingtip, also coloured white. The white / black divide appeared to be a straight line, running parallel to the body. Any idea what birds these might have been …?

    Thanks ! 🙂

  134. BirdAnswers says:


    This is an interesting question and quite frankly I am miffed. The description does not ring a bell with anything we have indigenous.

    This could be pet store kind of bird that has escaped.

    Perhaps a photo is necessary.

    Claude Morris

  135. Anna Pecorino says:

    I am curious about these white birds that are roosting with the grackles near Wal-Mart on Ben White. I have a picture I could send. They are snow white, yellow beaks, long tail feathers NO crown on their head.

  136. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Joy;

    The only thing I can think of that has an orange beak is a Crested Caracara. They do have white spots at the tips of the wings.

    Most of the birds of prey have yellow beaks.

    Claude Morris

  137. Joy Jones says:

    I need help identifying a large bird. I saw it in Katy, Tx. It was soaring and it was a dark brown bird with an orange beak and slightly lighter legs. There were no stripes and he had no white markings. He was making sort of a figure 8 in the sky. It looked like a hawk but the beak was bright reddish-orange.


  138. ask says:

    I have read a few excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting.

    I wonder how so much attempt you put to make one of these wonderful informative site.

  139. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Nancy;

    If this is in a marshy area, I think the bird you are describing is one of the Rails. There are several species of Rails. They will display territorial vocalizations in the evening.

    If this is a wooded area then perhaps a Northern Mockingbird. They will sing all night long.

    Claude Morris

  140. Nancy Evans says:

    What southwest Florida bird makes a VERY loud warbling/woodpecker like sound, late at night that is then picked up by similar birds within hearing range and repeated? This calling went on for at least 1&1/2 hours.

  141. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Margaret;

    Unfortunately there is little that can be done in a short time. Birds can be very specific as to where they chose their nest locations. Erecting a similar structure doers not mean that the birds will chose that structure.

    I think for this year the decisions have been made and if you disrupt the current progress they will lose the work that has been done.

    They will mover on and find an alternative location.


  142. Margaret Mills says:

    I have saved a dead sycamore tree trunk “snag” for the birds for over 4 years, but it’s 25 feet tall and rotten top to bottom, and ready to fall on the driveway. A woodpecker couple have been nesting at the top since I de-limbed it in 2011, but now it needs complete removal. The woodpeckers are busily building their Spring nest, and I could use a suggestion quickly, before eggs are laid, to offer them an incentive and alternative to their preferred nesting site. Other birds and squirrels have used the holes in the tree for their own use, and this “high rise apartment house” has been a source of entertainment for me, and homes for them. (I have two feeders (front and back yard) and a birdbath, but the grackles and white-wing dove have taken over the back yard.) The nesting birds in the snag have to be displaced as soon as possible, so what can I offer instead?
    All the other trees in the yard are pecan, and healthy. Are there nesting boxes available, and what would they look like? Please help!

  143. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Francie;

    Dallas has had a very cold and snowy winter. Sometimes when the conditions are not favorable in one area, the birds move to areas that are better. That could be the case with the Cedar Waxwings in Dallas. We are in Austin and they are here all winter. We can even find them into May before they migrate back north.

    I have included a link to the Cedar Waxwing page in Cornell Lab or Ornithology. this page has lots of great information on this species.

    Claude Morris

  144. Fran says:

    Hi Travis, My question may be easy, but I’m having difficulty locating the answer nonetheless. Lol. I live in N. Texas. Dallas area. I am trying to find a site that can show me the cedar Waxwing migration through Texas. They only come through my neighborhood for 1 day. A few come through on a 2nd day, but the 1st day is an amazing show of those beautiful birds. We had a bad winter this year, and I missed the birds. I don’t know if they took an alternate route, or what. In any case, I’m looking for a migration route I can follow, to look for them next year. Thank u for your help.

  145. Lewie Barber says:

    All yellow, like a canary, except wings and tail are white. About size of lessor goldfinch. Dark eyes, pink legs and beak. Body, wings and tail have zero dark. Not in Crossley Eastern Birds, but canary is not either. Pictures on feeder with goldfinch and house finch available.

  146. BirdAnswers says:

    Sounds like this could be either a Pine Warbler or Yellow-rumped Warbler. Both of these species winter in Central Texas.

    Other yellowish birds could be Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch or American goldfinch.

    Claude Morris

  147. Lewie Barber says:

    Sparrow size or slightly smaller bird, all yellow except for white wings and tail. Picture available. On cracked sunflower feeder.

  148. Luther says:

    I read in this morning’s Statesman where a Striped Sparrow has been identified in Williamson County. For the past few weeks I have had a flock of birds showing up under my feeder that I was told were Female Red Winged Blackbirds. I think they may be Striped Sparrows from looking at Google Images. Who could I send a picture to to confirm this?


  149. Jonathan says:


    It was a few years ago that I was looking up (as always) and saw what looked like a Mississippi Kite chasing a smaller bird (roughly the size of a sparrow) and very elegantly catching it in its talons in kind of a hovering, boxing-in, maneuver.

    My bird-loving friends strongly doubt what I had seen, but can you help me prove them wrong – is this known to happen? All info about MS Kites only mentions them catching insects in flight.

    FYI – The observation took place in northern Florida. I could not identify the smaller bird as the chase happened pretty high up, probably at an altitude of more than 60 meters in my estimation.

  150. Betty Dotson says:

    I live near Beaumont Texas and we usually have finch here eating at our feeders by now and we have seen none this year.

  151. BirdAnswers says:

    I have only seen a few pockets of the birds this winter out in the wild. They are one migrant that winters in a wide range and do not always come back to the same area in winter. They usually stay in place until they have depleted a food supply that would force them further south. They do “ride” fronts as they pass but where they stop is any ones guess. The bird winters from southern Canada to as far down as Costa Rica! Like I stated, a WIDE winter range. All that said, I would expect to see more of them arriving by months end as I almost always see them eating at early buds and existing berries plus northern food supply should be dwindling by this time.

    Hope that helps answer your question. If not, please feel free to reach back out to me.

    -Charles Stephens

  152. Janice Samuelson says:

    When do we expect the Cedar Waxwings to be coming through Austin. I love these birds and look forward to seeing them. Seems like they are later than normal. Thanks! Janice

  153. BirdAnswers says:

    I’m sorry I took until today to answer this, but I’m not coming up with anything that appears to match this description. Perhaps some sort of exotic or mix with domestic?

  154. Robert Coe says:

    Saw a pair of ducks on Lake LBJ this past weekend. They were about mallard size, but with distinctive eye patches, short bills and very bright white bands on the leading edges of the wings. The tops and bottoms of the wings had white patches as well, all wing markings only visible in flight. On the necks of both were thin reddish bands. Very vocal with typical quack-quack calls. Any ideas?
    Robert Coe

  155. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Gregory,

    I’m not sure what the question is, but if it is “where are my birds?” this is my best guess. I’m in Austin, Texas, so I’m not that familiar with bird responses to extreme cold in your area. But in general, many species that are not true migrants will drift south in response to a vigorous cold front, and your neighborhood may be experiencing a temporary absence of its resident birds. And since a large body of water is to your north it may be that similar species further north are not crossing it to fill in the vacancy. But don’t worry. They’ll be back.

  156. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi micky,

    I can’t tell if anyone has answered this or not, but basically there’s no way to know what it was without more information. There are peregrines on the UT tower, so certainly it is possible one of them went downtown for a pigeon luncheon. Broadwings nest in Austin, but would be very unlikely in December. They should be in South America during out winter. Similarly, Swainson’s Hawks are migratory and should mostly be in Argentina about that time. In migration, almost anything could show up, and it would certainly be possible for a Swainson’s to pass through. In fall of 2013, I observed a kettle of Swainson’s Hawks lifting off one morning after obviously having roosted overnight in trees in my neighborhood (Brentwood near Burnet just north of Koenig). We’ve had a few Zone-tailed Hawks spotted in the area. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the plumage of Red-tailed Hawks is tremendously variable. Cheers!

  157. BirdAnswers says:

    You can post the picture to the Facebook page of Texbirds (a user group for Texas birders) or to something like Flickr and send a link to Texbirds. To use Texbirds, though, you have to be a member of Texbirds. Also, here, it appears that when you are composing a comment there is a button to post a URL to an image. You also have my permission just to email me the image, and I’ll take a look. As far as keeping it away from the patio, I can’t think of a way other than putting up some kind of barrier – perhaps a fine mesh that you can see through. It doesn’t sound like the dog is imposing enough to scare the hawk away by itself. If you can’t put up a barrier, the only solution is to keep the dog in unless you’re there. The problem of small pets is a continuing issue, especially as more raptors are becoming more comfortable in urban areas. So the only real solution is to keep small pets indoors unless you’re there to guard it. Birds fly, and even if you somehow put a permanent fright into this hawk, there will be others, as well as the even more formidable Great Horned Owls, which are pretty common in the city. My email address is: Cheers!

  158. AM Williams says:

    I live in the Mueller area. I have a small (6lbs) dog that I was letting hang out on my 4th floor patio. All of the sudden, a large hawk came swooping in and landed on the handrail, eyeing my dog! I got a great picture of it and I’d like confirmation that it’s a red tail for my own knowledge. Is there an email address or place I can send the digital image? Also, do you have any tips to keep it away so my patio will be safe for the pup?

  159. Gregory Fox says:

    I live in North Central Ohio along the shore of Lake Erie. There was a frigid cold snap ten days ago, and I have not had a single bird at my feeders. I had many sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, red-headed woodpecker. The water is now frozen, and, there are bald eagles nearby, and an occasional hawk.

  160. micky says:

    has anyone ever seen a swainson’s hawk flying around downtown? my friend has seen a hawk that is clearly NOT a red tail. or is it likely a broad-winged? maybe a peregrine? I have only seen red-tails downtown. plz advise, thanks!

  161. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, most likely you saw a big kettle of Swainson’s Hawks. Great spot!
    They are moving south to Southern South America at this time of year. You
    were lucky to be looking up! Broad-winged Hawks are also on the move in great numbers right now.

    If you are ever in Texas in the fall again, go to Hazel Bazemore hawk watch
    in Corpus Christi to be wowed by 1000s of all kinds of hawks flying south.

  162. BirdAnswers says:

    You have good ears. Great Horned Owls are duetting right now, which helps solidify the pair bond so that they can get busy soon with raising a new brood. The male’s voice is deeper than the female’s. Visit, type Great Horned Owl in the search box, and you can listen to what they sound like. But you may be hearing our little Eastern Screech Owls, which some say sound like the neighing of a small horse. I heard one this morning before dawn. Sometimes they even sound like a distant ambulance. Visit to listen to them too. Last, if you are close to a creek, it may be Barred Owls. They say “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? Their call has a different tonal quality than the Great Horned Owl. Enjoy listening!

  163. BirdAnswers says:

    HI, we get this question a lot at this time of the year. Many feeder birds abandon the feeders for the wild foods that are abundant right now- lots of plants gone to seed, particularly their favorite, which is ragweed. A Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist likens it to this: would you prefer fast food or a home-cooked meal?
    By about mid-November, they should be back in your yard and hungry.

  164. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, there is plentiful food in the wild right now. Molt should have occurred in Aug/Sept so should be over. Birds are flocking to ragweed, a favorite food source. I have reports from two outstanding ornithologists that things should pick up in November around the 8th of so.
    Also, birds don’t have abundant hormones right now, since no breeding going on, so that is another reason they are not so visible or heard.

    So, don’t give up, and keep doing what you are doing.

  165. Joann says:

    We live southeast of Manor and have always had many cardinals come to our feeders. But about 2 or 3 weeks ago they stopped & we haven’t seen even one since then. There are no dead ones either. What do you think happened to them?

  166. Barbara Calaway says:

    What are the unusual new bird sounds I’m hearing late at night? It’s not exactly the hoot of owls, but it sounds like a bird conversation and makes me laugh.

  167. esther says:

    I have a yard on a farm in Caldwell County that offers bird habitat all year round—-cover, feed, water source, etc. Having been an avid birder for years, I have noticed for several years now that there are periods of time lasting several weeks ( mid-October, 2014) where the birds simply disappear.

    Does the fall molt have anything to do with this?

    Where are they?

  168. Craige Edgerton says:

    I am visiting from out of town and was hiking the Brushy Creek trail in Round Rock this past Saturday and saw a flock of an estimated 1,500-2,000, what appeared to me as hawks, circling all together about 2,000 ft. in the air at 09:15. They seemed to have caught a thermal and were just soaring in a fairly tight circle. They were not vultures as I could see both Black and Turkey below the large gathering so they were definitely not vultures. They were mostly white on the belly with black tips and black along the trailing edge of the primaries. I have seen similar large gatherings of gulls in my home are of San Jose CA. but nothing like this that soared like hawks. I won’t rule out gulls but they looked so much like hawks the way they soared. They were so far up that even with my binos, I could only get markings of their undersides.

    Does anyone have any ideas as to what they might have been? I have never seen hawks in this number before. Was I hallucinating? Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Craige Edgerton
    San Jose CA

  169. Jane McCall Politi says:

    I will be in Austin for the first time from Oct. 10-14. I live in NY.
    Are there any bird walks during that period? Could you give me the name of someone with whom I could bird?
    Thank you, Jane

  170. BirdAnswers says:


    Scaly-naped Pigeon would be very out of range in Texas. Have you considered Rock Pigeon? They have red eyes and red legs which would match your description. Also, if like, you can send your photo to which would be very helpful in firming up the ID.

  171. Philip Green says:

    I just photographed a very large pigeon with red legs and red skin rings around the eyes. It was huge! First thoughts were a fledgling buzzard until I got closer. The only ID that seemed to match was a scaly-naped pigeon but that seemed way out of its normal range and it seemed to not mind my presence.. Is there another similar pigeon more indigenous to this area that fits?

  172. BirdAnswers says:


    I wanted to let folks know that we identified the beautiful red bird that is pecking your window and eating wasp larvae as a Summer Tanager. I initially thought the bird was most likely a Northern Cardinal, but your video and it’s larvae-eating nature definitely point to Summer Tanager.

    Thanks and Happy Birding!

  173. Michelle/Dripping Springs says:


  174. Michelle/Dripping Springs says:

    There is a red bird– beautiful red like a Cardinal— without a crown, pecking on my daughter’s bedroom window, every morning, all morning. Literally, every minute or 2, he comes to the same window, pecks it for 5 seconds or so, then flies back into the tree to start again in a bit. There is, what appears to be, a female following him. The odd thing is, the ‘female’ is golden versus plain brown. She sits right in the tree and watches him peck– they fly around for a second together– then back.
    Why that window? Of the 5 identical windows our daughter has in her room, what is the draw? The only thing I can think of is the way it faces east. From his tree branch, starting at 7am, he probably sees his own reflection and is territorial. That’s just my guess.
    One more characteristic that I thought was odd– it flew up under our balcony’s roof to peck down a small wasp nest. It took him a bit of work to accomplish this. After the nest had fallen, he ate the larvae out of it (I’m guessing) and flew away.
    What birds eat larvae from bees? I am new to this area (Chicago suburbs), so I am unfamiliar to these birds’ traits and habits. I am LOVING all of there calls day and night, out in the country though!

  175. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Marvin;

    From the Chamber of Commerce point of view I hope you enjoyed our city and plan to return. We like it here and enjoy all it has to offer.

    Upland Sandpipers and passing visitors for us. We get them during their migrations. It is possible you saw some.

    Peregrines are mostly passing visitors as well. We also get Merlins and a few Prairie Falcons passing through. The smaller Kestral is a winter resident. It is very possible you saw a Peregrine. In past years we have had Peregrine Falcons nesting in downtown. I know we have several pairs of hawks nesting downtown also..

    Yes, we have a good number of Cattle Egrets summer here. We also have Snowy Egrets.

    I certainly hope you were able to find a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. They are one of our summer birds that do not migrate too far out of Texas. We also have a couple of endangered species; Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. You will need to come back and find them as well.

    Claude Morris

  176. Marvin T. Smith says:

    I was visiting your great city last week for a conference and managed to get in some birding at the State Capitol and the lake downtown. I have a couple of questions if someone has time to answer them. I thought that I saw Upland Sandpipers on the grassy strips along the airport runway as we were coming in to the airport. Is that likely? I thought I saw a falcon flying east of the Hilton one morning. Are there Peregrines downtown? There is a large roosting site on the south side of the lake at Congress Avenue. I couldn’t make out the birds in the distance, but most appeared to be Cattle Egret?
    I was thrilled to get my life Western Kingbird, Nashville Warbler,Great-Tailed Grackle, and Inca Dove. I only wish I could have driven around out of town.
    Thanks in advance
    Marvin T. Smith
    Valdosta, GA

  177. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Phillip;

    Our two most common breeders are Red-shouldered Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk.

    The Red-shouldered is the smaller of the two. They are more likely to be associated with water but not necessarily. We see them all the time along the river.

    There are a few Swainsons’ Hawks and Mississippi Kites that nest in Bastrop County and there are a few Osprey hang around during the summer. These two species are a bit larger that the Red-shouldered.

    From your description I could not pin-point any one in particular. The Red-tailed has some variability in the plumage.

    From the description I would think it to be the Red-shouldered Hawk. Close to water, smaller size and russet legs and the repeated squak are all indicators of Red-shouldered.

    Claude Morris

  178. Phillip Taylor says:

    We have a breeding pair of hawks or falcons……that are reusing and building on a very large nest in a hackberry tree from 2 years ago, in our large back yard in Lago Vista, Texas. We are not in a highly populated area and are within a quarter mile of the lake.
    This bird is mostly grey with a broad band of white across it’s upper tail. It has russet thighs and legs and a splash of white at the neck and sides of the head. It appears quite sleek, muscular and is about the size of a crow, but we know it is some sort of bird of prey.
    When it is vocal, its cry is either a single or repeating squak……loud…not a song bird!
    We organic garden in an area somewhat close to this nest and don’t want to run them away! Yesterday they seemed to keep an eye on us and were quite vocal!
    Can you help us identify this bird?

  179. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Lawrence

    Yes, this is common. Egrets and Herons will make communal nests. That is they all like to nest in the same location. Sometimes you can find several hundred pairs nesting in a clump of 5-6 trees.

    When this happens you can imagine the mess that is created under the trees.

    Not to worry though, they will move to another area next year.

    Claude Morris

  180. Lawrence T. Jones says:

    We live in south Austin near S. Lamar and Oltorf streets. It appears that there are three herons nesting in a tall oak tree in our backyard. Our neighbors spotted them before we did. Don’t know what type of heron as we are not “birders.” We’ve never seen this before and we’ve lived here for 20 years. Is this a common occurance?

  181. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Bill;

    There are a number of commercially available Woodpecker houses. Whether they work or not I do not know. Following is an excerpt from the National Wildlife Foundation web site. They say at lease these three species use houses.

    All woodpeckers nest in tree cavities, but northern flickers, red-headed woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers also may take up residence in bird houses.

    Northern flicker requirements: 7” x 7” x 18” high; hole: 2-1/2”, centered 14” above the floor; color: natural; placement: 8–20’ high on tree trunk; nesting material: 4” of wood shavings on floor.

    Red-headed woodpecker requirements: 6” x 6” x 15” high; hole: 2”, centered 6–8” above the floor; placement: 8–20’ high on tree trunk; nesting material: 4” of wood shavings on floor.

    Downy woodpecker requirements: 4” x 4” x 10” high; hole: 1-1/4”, centered 6–8” above the floor; placement: 8–20’ high on tree trunk; nesting material: 4” of wood shavings on floor. Habitat: Because woodpeckers are woodland birds, they will be more likely to occupy birdhouses that are mounted on the trunks of mature trees in the middle of woodlands.

    Good luck. Hopefully Austin Energy will wait until after the nesting season. Perhaps a call will encourage them to do so.

    Claude Morris

  182. Bill Harwell says:

    We have a very old telephone pole at the front of our property that has been declared structurally unsound by Austin Energy due to the very large number of owl and woodpecker holes in it, so it’s going to come down soon and be replaced. We’re worried about the birds that might be living/nesting there now, especially in the spring. One thought we had was to put up woodpecker houses for our red-bellied and downy residents.
    Does anyone know if woodpecker houses would actually be used, or do they really prefer trees?

  183. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Mike;

    Thanks for the question.

    They could have been the American White Pelican. Did you notice any black on the wing? The Pelican will have black on the trailing edge of the wing.

    Also, Gulls are migrating. Their wings would be grey with a spot of black on the tip


  184. Mike Meier says:

    While walking along S. Lamar near Matt’s El Rancho today (Sunday, April 13), we say three groups, each with several flocks, of migrating birds heading north. They were white with long wings but no trailing legs that I could see. I’d guess 200 birds per group, 600 total. They made no sounds that I could hear. Pelicans?

  185. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Kim;

    From the list we have most. Most are winter birds and will go back north for the summer. Some on the list we have year round. Here is a compilation from the list

    American Robin Winter Can be abundant during winter

    Dark-eyed Junco Winter Sometimes good numbers

    Song Sparrow Winter Sometimes good numbers

    Bewick’s Wren Year round Not very many

    Carolina Wren Year round Abundant

    House Wren Winter Not very many

    Common Yellowthroat Winter Not very many

    Red-winged Blackbird Year round Abundant

    Northern Cardinal Year round

    Spotted Towhee Winter Not very many

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet Winter Can be abundant during winter

    Hermit Thrush Winter Not very many

    White-Throated Sparrow Winter Sometimes good numbers

    American Goldfinch Winter Sometimes good numbers

    Black-Capped Chickadee No, we have the Carolina Chickadee

    Killdeer Year round Good numbers

    California Quail No

    Northern Bobwhite Quail Year round not too many

    American Crow Year round Good numbers

    Blue Jay Year round

    Steller’s Jay No a more western species

    Black-billed Magpie No

    Claude Morris

  186. Kim says:

    Are any of the birds listed on this page by Jon Young native or abundant in the Austin/San Antonio areas?

    I know we have bluejays and mockingbirds, but are we likely to see any of the others around here?

    The bird call list starts about half way down the page.

  187. Josh C says:

    Do any of you spot Ringed Kingfishers around Austin on a regular basis?

  188. Kim Lauritzen says:

    When is the best time to put out hummingbird feeders in Austin? I don’t want to be late this year!


  189. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Thomas;

    American Goldfinches are in the area. I am surprised the thistle feeders are not attracting them. Try relocating the feeders.

    Claude Morris

  190. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Jen;

    It is way to iffy.

    Your best chance is to go to Port Aransas. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is where they winter. They have observation decks and tours into the marsh to see them.

    They usually migrate any time between late March and April.


  191. Thomas Kleeman says:

    In previous years I have seen Goldfinches by this time. I have wondered if the American Goldfinches had delayed their migration because of the lengthy and harsher than normal winter. I put out a thistle feeder a couple of weeks ago, but I have not seen any finches yet. Are they in the area?

  192. J Henson says:

    Thanks so much, Claude! I would love to see a Whooping Crane. Do you know when they are expected to come back through? Would there be a good weekend, for example, to plan a camping trip to Granger Lake or is it just too iffy to predict?


  193. BirdAnswers says:


    I believe you are correct with your assessment. The American White Pelican does fly with its neck pulled back. They are also numerous here in the winter. I am surprised you saw only one as they are gregarious.

    Last year there was a small group of Whooping Cranes wintering at Granger Lake. So the possibility is real you could see one. They do fly with outstretched necks.

    Thank you for the observation

    Claude Morris

  194. J Henson says:


    Today near Mueller lake I saw a very large, white bird with black feathers spanning the tips of its wings. It’s neck was tucked in, it was flying alone, and it was circling. I thought at first that it was a whooping crane, but the time isn’t right, and I believe they fly with their necks outstretched. I see from this forum that someone else spotted a Pelican with a similar description not too long ago. Perhaps that it what I saw? It looked spectacularly white, not gray. Very impressive bird!

  195. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Lincoln;

    In my birding education and experience I have never heard of one that develops that quickly.

    The chicks of ground nesting birds like Quail, Turkey, Chickens, Terns, Ducks, Plovers, etc can get up and run around soon after hatching. But the incubation period of these birds is still in the 20 day range. Then flight comes weeks after that.

    So for a species to develop and fly in three days is questionable.

    Claude Morris

  196. Lincoln Soule says:

    Someone was trying to tell us that there is a bird who lays eggs on the bare ground and hatch in less than 24 hours and the young can fly in a day. Can that be even close to correct?

  197. BirdAnswers says:


    Although it’s true that just about anything is possible with birds, it would be very unlikely for an Aplomado Falcon to appear in Austin. In Texas, these birds are primarily restricted to the coastal prairies from Calhoun County southward where a reintroduction program began in 1989. They are also rare visitors in the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas where a couple of sightings were reported in the 1990s that were believed to have wandered from wild populations in Mexico. Since 2002, birds have also been reintroduced in this area. Several other falcon species such as Merlin and Peregrine Falcons are possible in Austin, so you may consider those species as possibilities. Your description of white on the rump or undertail makes me think of Cooper’s Hawk, which is not a falcon but an accipiter. Both juvenile and adult Cooper’s have long, banded tails and can show conspicuous amounts of white on the undertail. Cooper’s Hawks also fit your description of a fast-flying hawk as other birds are their main prey which they often chase on the wing with amazing quickness and maneuverability. Cooper’s are a fairly common winter visitor in the Austin area as well as a uncommon summer resident. Sharp-shinned Hawks are very similar to Cooper’s Hawk and are also a common winter resident in the area, so they are another possibility.

    Hope this helps a little and happy birding.

  198. Robert says:

    Is there any chance there are Aplomado Falcons in the Austin area? A fast-flying bird with long, barred tail, short beak, white rump or undertail passed overhead a couple of weeks ago at Pickle Research Center and I can’t find anything else that looks like it in my Crossley Raptor Guide.

  199. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear Sandy,

    The birds you saw sound like American White Pelicans. These large, impressive birds are common winter residents in the southern half of Texas, particularly along the coast, but can also be found on inland reservoirs. American White Pelicans feed mostly on fish, but will also eat other aquatic prey such as crayfish and tadpoles. These pelicans do not dive to catch fish like Brown Pelicans, which are common residents along the Texas coast, but rather catch their food by dipping their heads underwater and scooping up prey with their large pouches. They also sometimes fish cooperatively by moving together in a circle to concentrate fish in the middle and then dipp their heads simulaneously to catch the fish – pretty cool if you ask me! So, you do not need to worry about the pelicans you saw, they will find plenty of food in the lakes in our area or they will move on to the coast or other areas where they will spend the rest of the winter before spring sends them north once again.

  200. Sandy Bannister says:

    Today early afternoon, I was on Bliss-Spiller Road in Manchaca. Looking above, I saw two very large white birds with grayish wings circling for awhile. I looked back and other cars were stopping. I knew this was a rare ocurrance. The guy behind me told me they were pelicans. Now I am worried. What will they eat? How can they survive inland.

    Please let me know if anyone else has reported this. People were taking pictures.

  201. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Doug,

    Cedar Waxwings are present in our area as migrants and winter residents from about mid-October to well into May. The number of birds present can vary widely from year to year based on food availability. They are somewhat nomadic as they wander the countryside in search of food sources, which include a wide variety of berries, so their appearance is hard to predict. They could show up at anytime during the fall, winter and spring months, so if you don’t see them in January, don’t lose hope as they may still appear. To get a feel for local bird activity as well as activity across the state, you may want to consider joining Texbirds, which is a listserv dedicated to birds and birding in Texas. Check it out at the following website: . By joining, you will be able to learn about sightings all across the state and can post questions about birds, including information on local sightings of Cedar Waxwings in the Austin area.

    Good luck and good birding!

  202. Doug Brown says:

    Greetings – For the past two years, we have seen cedar waxwings migrating through our neighborhood at the end of January. In both cases, the flock passed through in a single day, only staying in the trees for a few hours. We would like to be alert for the waxwings again this year, but would appreciate any advance warning that they are coming! Is there a blog location or any other local alerts where folks can report which birds they have seen recently? We would love the chance to try again for some pictures of these beautiful birds! Thanks for any information…
    Doug Brown

  203. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear Seaczar,

    I just noticed that it does not seem like your post from October 3 ever received a response. I am not sure where you saw the small “chocolate-colored” birds with short tails, but if you saw them in Michgan, a possibility would be Winter Wren or House Wren. More information on Winter and House Wrens can be found at the websites:


    If you saw them in East Texas, another possibility would be Brown-headed Nuthatch. More information can be found here:

    I hope these suggestions are helpful – if you can provide more information on specific location and date of sighting, we may be able to narrow down the ID.

    Thank you and good birding.

  204. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Stacey,

    What you witnessed sounds like what is commonly referred to as flocking behavior. Birds may participate in flocking behavior for different reasons including to increase foraging success (also called commensal feeding) and for protection. This behavior can occur at anytime of the year but is ofen observed in the winter when many birds tend to form flocks on their wintering grounds. Flocks can be either of single species or mixed species, which sounds like what you witnessed. Some additional information, if you are interested in reading more, can be found at the following websites.

    I also wanted to mention that your sighting of 20-25 vultures on a floating log would be a little unusual and wanted to ask if the birds might have been Double-crested Cormorants? In any case, it sounds like you had a magical experience with the birds, and we wish you a Happy New Year with lots of new and exciting bird moments!

  205. BirdAnswers says:


    Is it possible that your birds of prey are Red-shouldered Hawks? They are typically found near water especially streams and rivers, and their dark tails can show three to four white bands. They are dark brownish black above and a dark rusty red below. If you see them again and can obtain a photograph, that would be very helpful in confirming the ID. Photos can be sent to . Please include BirdAnswers in the subject line to aid in directing your photo to the proper person.

    Thank you and Happy Birding!

  206. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear Melinda,

    I am sorry it took so long to respond to your question sooner, but technical difficulties with the website were giving us troubles; however they have been solved and we can now reply to questions again. In any case, I expect that your hummingbird made it throught the cold weather without too much difficulty as they are surprisingly hardy for such tiny birds! The best way to help hummingbirds through the winter is to keep your hummingbird feeder stocked with fresh sugar water (1 part white sugar to 4 parts water) and just make sure that it doesn’t freeze. Temperatures usually do not stay below freezing long enough in our area to freeze the sugar water, but sometimes it can happen. In those rare weather events, a heat source, such as a light near the feeder, is often all that is needed to keep the sugar water from freezing. Hope this helps; if possible, I would be interested to hear from you with regard to which species of hummingbird is spending the winter in your yard.

    Thanks for caring about your birds and happy hummingbirding!

  207. Stacey Locke says:

    While walking on the east end trail of Lady Bird Lake (Robert Martinez Rd area) today we saw an odd mixture of birds congregating on the lake – about 12 pelicans (?), what appeared to be seagulls, ducks, osprey (?) and mute swans. The pelicans were grouped together and the ducks started flying in a large circle, then gliding into a group in the area of the pelicans; the swans were mainly on the outside of the gathering, then the seagulls joined in with wide flying circles then floating. Along the north banks – on a very long log in the water sat about 20-25 vultures – all in a row. The vultures never ventured from their perch – just sat in a still row – every once in a while a seagull would sort of use them as an obstacle course – flying between them – then touching down in the water – only to join the large group again.

    After a lot of activity – they all seemed to settle in and just float along in a “flotilla!”with the pelicans being the center of the group, and others swimming along all around them. It was an odd, peaceful but strange sight – is this normal activity at this time of year (or any time of year for that matter?!)

    Thank you – from a bird lover who saw something new today! Look forward to hearing your comments..

  208. Jess Eagle Eye says:

    This is a bird of prey question. I know what you’re thinking… red tailed hawk, but they’re too dark for that, and I saw them resting and in flight, and the tail didn’t have any difference in color from the wings. I hike in the park behind the Long Horn Dam almost daily and there have appeared 3 very large birds of prey. This isn’t the Osprey that hangs out by the water. These were seen in the wooded area about a quarter mile from the river. They are HUGE, I’m approximating 18″ from crown of head to tip of tail. The tail is the distinctive part, there were about 4 white bands across it. Any idea?

  209. melinda brooke grissom says:

    We have a hummingbird that did not migrate at our home in Burnet , Texas. It is freezing now , how do we care for him?

  210. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Cynthia:
    I am so sorry this question about the hawks you saw at Riverbend did not get answered earlier. In October we get both kettles of Swainson’s Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks migrating through Austin. It is a phenomenal sight. Can you imagine? They are on their way to South America to spend the winter. Swainson’s go to Argentina, and Broad-wingeds go to northern South America. Keep an eye out for them again in the spring.

  211. BirdAnswers says:

    HI, In October a Golden-cheeked Warbler sighting would be extremely unlikely as they leave central Texas in late July and August. But their cousin the Black-throated Green Warbler looks very similar, and they migrate through the area in October. Look at the All About Birds website to see the differences.

  212. Lalor Burdick says:

    Could we have seen a Golden-cheeked Warbler October 10-13 when we stayed at a B&B on Sawyer Ranch Road just east of Dripping Springs? Sure looked liked it but we thought they would have migrated by then.

  213. cynthia navarro says:

    Today at Riverbend church around 10:00 a.m.I saw about 100 hawks or ospreys flying in circles going south .They stayed about 10 minutes circling and then they were gone.What can you tell me about the phenomena.Thanks navarro

  214. Seaczar says:

    Hello, I live in Michigan and have been watching birds while hunting my whole life. Yesterday 2 very small petite chocolate colored birds, about the size of a kinglet with a short stubby tail landed in the tree with me. In 30 plus years its my first encounter with one and I’m having trouble identifying it. Any help would be appreciated.

  215. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Lori;

    This is an annual event. It happens in late August. The Purple Martins will come together and roost in the trees on the north side of Highland Mall. This is the side with the sailboat shop.

    There will be thousands of birds at the site.

    It has passed for this year but they will be back again next year. There will be posts on the Travis Audubon web site under the Field Trip section as someone will be there to help explain the behavior.

    Claude Morris

  216. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Lori;

    This is an annual event. It happens in late August. The Purple Martins will come together and roost in the trees on the north side of Highland Mall. This is the side with the sailboat shop.

    There will be thousands of birds at the site.

    It has passed for this year but they will be back again next year. There will be posts on the Travis Audubon web site under the Field Trip section as someone will be there to help explain the behavior.

    Claude Morris

  217. Lori Luce says:

    I was reading the Austin Chronicle’s “Best Of” issue and they mentioned a mass roosting of purple martins by Highland Mall. Is looks like I have missed this years gathering of birds by the time frame the Chronicle gave. If I have missed it, is this a one time event or something I can look forward to observing next year? Thank you, Lori

  218. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Rosemary;

    The Black-capped Vireo nests in central Texas. A likely place to see them in on the Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge.

    The middle to latter part of October may be a little late to see them. Contact the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge for location and opportunities.

    I have included a web link to the National Wildlife Regfuge

    Here is some more information about the Endangered Species.

    Claude Morris

  219. Rosemary Mulligan says:

    i will be in the austin area oct. 18th-24th.
    will be going to the commons ford ranch park
    for some birding. is this a site where i might see a blk-headed vireo??
    will be staying near canyon lake area. is there somewhere
    else that you recommend that is not to far afield, to see the vireo, as i’m traveling
    with a very part time bird watcher friend.
    later in the year i will be in the south padre island area for two wees.
    thanks, rosemary

  220. BirdAnswers says:

    Bettye, I’m sorry to say there aren’t any places in Central Texas where Ospreys may be found in summer, their usual breeding time. In the Austin area Ospreys begin to arrive sometime during September and may be found at lakes and sometimes rivers from September through April, tapering off during May, not to be seen again until fall. Ospreys breed along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as the Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida. The Texas Ornithological Society Handbook of Texas Birds indicates that the Osprey is “a very rare and local breeder in the Pineywoods [of Texas] and along the upper coast, typically near larger reservoirs.” Thus, there are no reliable places within the state to observe these wonderful birds on their nests.

  221. Bettye Williams says:

    I have noticed that there are ospreys around Austin. I am a huge fan and would love to see their nest. Do you know where a nest would be found?

  222. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Miriam,

    Your description sounds like it might be a male Orchard Oriole. They are our smallest oriole, and they breed throughout Texas. If you want to keep them coming back, you might put some fruit out; such as an orange cut in half.

    Hope this helps.

  223. Miriam says:

    Wanted to know what kind of bird is coming to my birdbath. He has a black head, back and wings with a little white patch above the tail feathers; but his breast and rump is red. He is larger than a sparrow but smaller than a cardinal. I was most impressed by the fact that my husband passed by the birdbath before he saw the bird and the bird did not budge. If anyone knows what it might be please let me know.

  224. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear J Jones,

    In answer to your first question, it is technically illegal to have dead birds in your possession if you do not have a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife that allows you to “salvage” birds. However, that being said, many birders do pick up window-killed or otherwise deceased birds and then turn them over as soon as possible to a permitted salvager so that the bird can become part of a scientific database at a university such as Texas A&M or LSU. If you would like to donate your birds to such a facility, please send an email to and I will send you the appropriate contact information.

    As for your second question, many window strikes occur at night and the best thing to do to prevent those strikes is to make sure as many lights are turned off each night as possible. This can be done through building-wide emails that encourage folks to turn off lights when they leave for the day or by installing light switches that are motion sensative and will turn off when no one is in the office/room. These are used at my office building and work quite well.

    It is harder to prevent window strikes during the day, espcially because many of the methods that can be effective are probably not appropriate for corporate buildings. The following website has some good information that may be useful.

    Some of the suggestions such as one-way transparent film on larger windows or screens may be acceptable, particularly if you can identify problem windows and only have to deal with those windows. In any case, you will need to set up a meeting with your building management folks and see if you can come up with a plan.

    Hope this helps and good luck.

  225. J Jones says:

    Birds occasionally hit the windows of the building where I work…sometimes with fatal results. I have been known to keep bird corpses in the freezer. What are the legalities of such? Also, what can corporate buildings do to prevent birds flying into windows? Decals and anything else that might be considered “unsightly” are not permitted. Is there any kind of tinting that might help? Ideas?

  226. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear Heidi,

    I think that the best time to have dealt with the cowbird issue in the House Finch nest would have been before the egg hatched when removal of the egg would have been a relatively simple task. Now that the bird has hatched, it may be best to just let nature take its course; it’s possible that the parent House Finches may be able to successfully raise both the cowbird and their own young. I should also point out that removal of eggs/nestlings, even those of cowbirds, is technically illegal unless you have the proper permits. A couple of websites with interesting reading regarding Brown-headed Cowbirds in general and the dilema of whether or not to interfere with the birds and their nests can be found at the following links:

  227. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Wade,

    Without photographs, it’s a bit hard to ID the birds that visited your feeder, but the most likely candidate in my mind would be recently-fledged Black-crested Titmice. Young Black-crested Titmice do not have the black crests of the adults and plumage variability in young birds could account for the differences you noted in the underparts. If the birds return and you are able to get photos, please send them to and I would be happy to take a look at them and give you a better idea of the ID.

  228. BirdAnswers says:

    Dear A. Schmit,

    In response to your question about removal of an acitve bird nest, I found the following website that has some good information:

    Some important points to note from the arcticle is that in the United States, it is illegal to remove or destroy any active nest from a native bird species. An active nest is defined as a nest with eggs or brooding adults in it. I cannot tell from your note what type of bird you have on your porch, but assuming it is a native species, it would be illegal to remove it until after the young have left the nest. According to the website, an exception can be made if the birds have built their nests in a poor location and the nest needs to be removed to safeguard both the adults and the chicks they hope to raise. I don’t think this situation applies to you exactly, but you may want to contact an animal rescue organization to see if they can help. In the Austin area, this would be Austin Wildlife Rescue; their website is

    They may also be able to provide you with more information regarding to the legal issues of nest removal.

    Another option would be to try to hose down your porch each day until the birds fledge (most nestlings fledge about two weeks after hatching) or possibly restrict your child’s access to the porch until they fledge, at which point the nest could be safely removed. It might also be possible to line your porch with newspaper which could then be picked up and replaced periodically for easy cleaning.

    Hope this helps and good luck.

  229. Heidi Spock says:

    My brother in Dallas area has a house finch nest in fern basket, and a brown headed cowbird placed an egg in nest — egg hatched yesterday or today. Concern is the 5 house finch eggs when hatched will have less of a chance of survival because of the parasitic cowbird hatchling. Any suggestions on how best to humanely remove the cowbird hatchling?


  230. Wade Naney says:

    I’ve identified all the bird species that have visited my feeder this year but one, and I was unprepared to photograph its appearances. It is very similar to a black-crested titmouse but half again as large and with a longer neck. It’s outline, though not its coloring, is somewhat like a cedar waxwing. Its belly is uniformly buff-colored (no white like the titmouse), except that it turns a bit burnished gold in the breast. The wing markings are almost identical to the titmouse. My last sighting was in mid-April. Three appeared for about 15 seconds, giving me time to rule out the titmouse, waxwing, and female cardinal.

  231. A. Schmit says:

    Hello – I am hoping you can help me.

    I just moved into a new condo in Lakeway and there is a bird’s nest in the corner of the ceiling on my back porch. There are birds in there and maybe eggs but I can’t get up that high to see. I am concerned because they are dropping bird excrement all over my back porch and I have a toddler so it is dangerous for him.

    I would like to have the nest removed but I don’t want to endanger the birds or their eggs. Do you have any suggestions? I’m a single mother and not very handy so I need someone to help me with it.


  232. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Susan,

    I think the variety of behaviors that you are seeing at your feeders is one of the aspects of birds that make them so interesting. Bird activity at feeders is affected by many variables including weather conditions and availability of natural food sources. American Goldfinches may not have frequented your feeder during the winter because it was fairly mild and fall rains provided for a good crop of native seeds. I did not have American Goldfinches at my feeders during the winter but they did appear during migration which is what I expect was true for your bird on May 3; it was prompted to visit your feeder while migrating during a period of unseasonably cold weather. Goldfinches at my feeders have always preferred sock feeders over the plastic or wire mesh kind – it may be a learned preference based on what kind of feeders they first visited, but I really don’t know.

    I expect that the finches you see at your feeders are House Finches; they are very common year round in the Austin area while Purple Finches would be very uncommon winter visitors and Cassin’s Finches would be even more unexpected.

    As for your disappearing titmice, many birds change their feeding habits during breeding season, so I expect that the titmice are not really gone, just off busy raising their young, which they will probably bring to your feeders just as soon as they are ready. Your seed-flinging jays and cardinals may indicate that you have a bad batch of sunflower seeds and they are just trying to find the good seeds. You may want to check for weavils or other bugs in the seeds and clean out your seed containers and feeders if you see anything suspicious. It is always a good idea to clean your feeders regularly anyway to help prevent the spread of diseases among your birds. Clean your feeders using a nine to one water-bleach solution, followed by thorough rinsing, one to two times a month. For additional info on cleaning your feeders and feeding area, please follow this link:

    Thanks and happy birding.

  233. susan wilson says:

    The week of 5.3,13,the cold one, I had an American goldfinch, not one this winter. Interesting. This is in Pflugerville., in Onion Creek twenty or more( American and least) at a sock at a time Here the finches will not touch the sock,they prefer the clear plastic feeder even when it is empty! interesting.I have house finches or purple finches I think, they are probably casins? I do not know the difference between red, and raspberry in the sun. My chicadees used to hang out with my titmouse, now they lose themselves with the sparrows and the finches,and there are no titmouse. The bluejays,cardinals seem to throw seeds to the squirrels and dove.What is going on in this unseemly world I live in?

  234. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Karen,

    Sounds like you have quite the persistent bird that is doing his best to drive out a perceived rival, but after two months and damage to your windows, it is time to get him to focus his energy elsewhere. I did a little research on the web and found several articles with helpful suggestions; a few of these are included below:

    •Decals placed inside or outside the window
    •Strips of tape, plastic or paper arranged in an irregular pattern
    •Soaping the outside of the windows
    •Placing non-reflective screen outside the window 2-3 inches from the glass
    •Adding one-way transparent film or opaque plastic to windows.

    You may want to check out these websites for additional information:

    Good luck and let us know if you are successful!

  235. BirdAnswers says:


    I believe that the dove you have nesting in your yard is a Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto). This dove is not native to North America; originally found on the Indian subcontinent, the first birds were found in the western hemisphere in the Bahamas in 1974 and from there they spread to Florida by the early 1980s and were first seen in Texas in 1995. Today, they occur over most of North America. These doves are common in Austin and seem to be very happy in urban settings; they are often one of the first birds seen when driving through towns in Texas, from the very small towns to the large cities. To my knowledge, they do not migrate and are year round residents where ever they have become established.

    The following websites have additional info on this bird if you are interested.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  236. Karen G says:

    Hi Y’all we need some advice. As you may know we LOVE our birds here on The Preserve in Lakeway/Bee Cave BUT we have a very jealous and territorial titmouse that has been relentlessly attacking and pecking several of our windows. This has been going on for 2+ months by now. The little guy doesn’t bother us so much anymore BUT he is causing extensive damage to our windows and has ruined the UV coating. Is there any way to stop the titmouse from pecking at our windows???? Thanks so much in advance

  237. Bob Gilmer says:

    I have a pair of ring neck doves nesting in my back yard, I have never seen a dove like this before, are they commmon to central Texas. Do you have any information on there mygration patterns.
    Any information you may have will be welcomed


  238. Juliann Chaney says:

    Follow up–Cardinal nest in hanging basket

    Good news! All 4 of the eggs hatched out on April 19 and left the nest today! My backyard is filled with cardinals! I’m proud to report that the hanging basket is still alive, thanks to the glass watering bubbles that you use when you go on vacation. Just thought this might help others who have had a similar situation. Thank you for the great information, and watching them has been a real treat. 🙂

  239. BirdAnswers says:

    Concerning your Fort Worth hummingbirds, hopefully they found shelter in this crazy weather we have been having, which can be very hard on the birds. Don’t despair. They probably moved on, as both the Black-chinned and Ruby-throated are migrating now. The All about Birds website of Cornell Lab of Ornithology has great info on both species.
    You can keep a hummingbird feeder going all year in Fort Worth, as you sometimes have wintering Rufous hummers too.
    The best thing though to do for your hummers and other birds is to garden for wildlife. See our Travis Audubon website for suggestions,
    but also your native plant society chapter, will have suggestions for plants that thrive in Fort Worth. Also, did you know there is a very active Audubon chapter in Fort Worth?

  240. BirdAnswers says:

    Concerning whether Stevia in the Raw can be used for hummingbird feeders. No, it should not be used.
    Hummingbirds need the calories provided by sugar, and NO artificial sweeteners should be used. They are not trying to lose weight!
    In fact, honey also should not used, as it contains spores, and easily grows bacteria and fungus.
    Don’t use red food coloring either. Having a feeder with red plastic parts is enough to attract the birds.
    With the summer heat in Texas, you should change out the solution at least every three days.
    Better yet, garden for hummingbirds, and you won’t have to keep up with the feeder. Sixty percent of a hummingbird’s diet is insects, and so native plants are really the answer. To get you started, look at our website on Bird Friendly plants

  241. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, Jacque,
    The Canada Goose is pretty social, and there is safety in numbers. Often a young goose will stay with its parents for the first year according to All About Birds website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
    They are a migratory species (although in some areas they don’t migrate any more, as habitat conditions created by humans are so favorable to them.)
    All migratory species are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, so permission must have been granted to remove them. Sometimes it is granted as they can be considered a nuisance species. Your question did not make it clear what the other 45 birds that were removed were. Texas is a major wintering home for many duck species that summer in Canada, Alaska and the northern US. The drought makes the remaining open water that much more attractive to them. Perhaps your homeowner’s association can work to enhance your lake habitat- not mowing to the edge makes it less attractive to the Canada Goose, but provides habitat for other wonderful wintering birds that need lakeside habitat- like the Sora rail and Swamp Sparrow.

  242. Jeannie says:

    I live in Fort Worth,Texas, on April the 10th it was an unusually cold day like 39 for the high. I noticed the arrival of 3 Hummingbirds at the feeder that afternoon but none since then. Where did the go?

  243. .john Conway says:

    Can necttor made from “Stevia extract in the Raw.” be safely fed to hummingbirds?

  244. Jacque says:

    This question is regarding The Lakes at Wells Branch. Though the lake has ecoli, 45 birds were removed. There was a family of Canadian Geese. The parents were removed, but not the offspring. Is it right to remove the parents of a bird? As you know, these are large birds and they are/were always together. Bob, with the Wells Branch Board, was responsible for this action. My question is if the lone goose will be okay. Or, if the community can try to bring the parents back. Even in the wild, if there is an injured goose, another will stay behind to keep it company. Please help.

  245. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, Lauri:
    I like what this website has to say.
    The birds have plentiful natural foods right now, and during nesting season they are busy collecting insects to feed to their young.

    One thing to think about is gardening for the birds. Native plants co-evolved with our birds to supply what they need.
    Check out the Travis Audubon list of recommended bird plants, and introduce some to your yard. In the long run, it might even allow you to reduce your bird seed bill!

    Last, I bet you are doing this, but be sure to supply water. In this drought, my birds are reliably coming to the four bird baths I have set out. A hanging birdbath is wonderful as they can use it safely if there are cats about. Deck-mounted bird baths have the same advantage.

  246. Lauri says:

    I have 6 flat trays that hang in my backyard. I have always used black oil sunflower seeds, occasionally adding safflower seeds. In the early years, I tried other styles of feeders as well as other seeds, but everyone was happy with these. Until last November. The male cardinal that had been visiting daily for 5 years disappeared and I presume he died. Ever since he stopped showing up, once in a while a few females would visit, but they have not reappeared since Novemeber. A young male stopped by in January and again in march, but has yet to return. But also the dozens of finch, wren, titmice and chickadees are gone. It all happened in November and pretty much over the course of a few days. No new cats or dogs in the area, none of my immediate neighbors have feeders, new or old. What happened?

  247. BirdAnswers says:

    HI, this is a dilemma that happens everywhere there are hanging baskets! I did a Google search of “birds nesting in hanging baskets” and there is all sorts of advice!

    The All About Birds website
    indicates that a cardinal will incubate her eggs for 11-13 days, and then the baby birds will be there from 7-13 days before they fledge. I have heard reports of people gently watering the plant from the side, but before you do that, how much nest material is there above the plant? It is really important that the eggs are at the right temperature and humidity, and having perpetual damp underneath may not be good if her nest is not very thick. Could you just give the plant barely enough to keep it going for the next few days? Once the eggs hatch it is really important to leave the nest alone to prevent the young from prematurely fledging – this means that they may fall out before they can really fly. The good news is that once they fledge they won’t return to the nest.

    Cardinals in your neighborhood clearly need more nesting places! A long term solution is to garden for wildlife, planting evergreens like yaupons and mountain laurels. But your cardinal is smart- nesting in a hanging pot minimizes the danger of nest predators like raccoons making a meal of her eggs! I hope you decide to let her raise the brood in peace, and deal with the plant’s fate in 3-4 weeks. By the way, you can join NestWatch on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website,

  248. Juliann Chaney says:

    I have a question about a cardinal nest with eggs and the momma bird is sitting on it. The cardinal made a nest in one of my hanging baskets on the patio. There are 4 eggs and she is quite attentive. My question is, Is it ok to still water the plant? Will it hurt the eggs. Could I water the plant very carefully on the side of the nest, without harming the eggs? And how long will it be until they hatch and leave the nest?

    Thanks for any advice you can give me!

  249. BirdAnswers says:

    There are not too many Barn Owls in Austin, but if you look on eBird (Google search it) and click on Explore Data for Travis County you can find out where Barn Owls have been seen recently in Austin. eBird is a fabulous, free resource you can use to locate birds. You can also help with Citizen Science by posting your sightings.

  250. Benji says:

    Greetings! I will be in the Austin area until April 3. I am wondering if anyone knows of any reliable barn owl locations in the area. Much appreciated!

  251. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Patricia;

    In my area of town the Mockingbirds are plentiful and beginning to nest.

    I wonder if something has changed in your neighborhood to cause them to move out.

    Bird species can be very selective when choosing a nesting location. Sometimes the trees can get too large to be attractive as a nest location. Sometimes if too many trees have been removed the location can be less desirable.

    Have new roads or buildings been built.

    Has any thing like that happened in your area?

    Mockingbirds generally like dense shrubs about 4 – 20 feet tall.

  252. Patricia Willoughby says:

    I have noticed that there is something missing in skies and my neighborhood. I have not seen any Northern Mockingbirds around. I really miss them. Can anyone tell me what has happened to them?
    Mourning their loss,
    Patricia Willoughby

  253. BirdAnswers says:

    Hello for Austin

    Golden-cheeked Warblers will be in the Austin area and singing in early April. Here are a couple of links to local areas where the Golden-cheeked Warbler can be found. Please check with the officials of the different areas. Some area are closed during the breeding season to protect the nesting activities.

    Black-capped vireo can be found on the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. These birds are much more secretive and are found in only a few very isolated. Guided tours may be available. Please contact the officials at Travis County for more information.

    There are no Blacked-capped Vireos on the Travis Audubon Baker Sanctuary.

    Travis county has several parks in western Travis County where the Warblers can be found. They should be able to direct you to a couple of their better ones. To name a few:

    Milton Reimers Ranch
    Pace Bend
    Bob Wentz

  254. John Burwell says:

    We will be in the area April 6th-12th! Would love to see Golden Cheek Warbler and Black Cap Vireo! Can you give us some parks to visit – staying in a time share north of Dallas – will travel for birds! We plan to stay one night in the Austin Area.Will they be back and singing at that time?Both would be life birds. Thank you

  255. Melissa says:

    Hi Melissa;

    This bird sounds like a Great Blue Heron. They live around water and catch their food of small fish, frogs, and crayfish with their long pointed beak. They stand about 3 – 4 feet tall. They range in color from light gray to slate blue. The head will be black and white.

  256. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Phyllis

    I think the large black birds you see are Black Vultures. Vultures in general like to roost on the towers and any place high above the ground.

    In flight the wings of the Black Vultures will have a very faint grayish appearance. Also, their tails are much shorter than the Turkey Vultures.

  257. Melissa says:

    Hi there – I live in northwest Austin and take my dog for a walk around the Riata lake every morning. There are normally ducks and such, but the other day, we saw a bird we hadn’t seen before. I did take a picture with my iPhone, but I couldn’t get that close because of the dog, so you can’t really see the bird. He/she was standing in the water and seemed grey and white. He seemed to be quite tall but I had a strange perspective. His neck was very long. My first thought was that he looked like a heron. I did not see him on the backyard birds page. Any idea what he might have been? Thanks!

  258. Phyllis Weiner says:

    For the past two evenings, at least two dozen large birds have landed on the tall cell tower behind my apartment building in north Austin just at sunset. It is hard to make out details in the dimming light, but I believe they are entirely black with rounded feathered heads and longish beaks with no marked hook like a hawk’s. In flight, their wings do not have the appearance of a turkey vulture’s, although they are about the same size. (Sorry to be so indefinite, but all my bird books are still buried somewhere in a mass of packing boxes!)

    My first thought was that they might be a fly-by of black vultures on their migration north, since I first saw them through a heavy fog. Of course, they may just turn out to be our familiar turkey buzzards, but I thought it might be worth reporting.

  259. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Kay,

    It’s very exciting to hear that you are interested in birdwatching and purchasing your first pair of binoculars is an important step toward getting started in this fun and rewarding activity. There are lots of options and information to consider in your purchase, and it’s a bit much to go into the details here, but the following link has an article on binoculars for beginning birders that does a good job explaining the basics and should help you get started : . Please note that even though the article is by EagleOptics, I am not endorsing their brand of binoculars over any other brand.

    All that being said, I think you should be able to find a good pair of starting binoculars for around $200-$300 or less, depending on your budget and binocular preference. Magnification and objective lens size are two of the most important features, and I have had and like both 8×42 and 10×42 binoculars but note that some folks find 10x binoculars hard to hold steady. In any case, I would encourage you try out as many different binoculars as possible before making the purchase, either by visiting stores that carry binoculars or by taking a look through the binoculars of friends or other birders if you have the chance.

    Hope the above helps and best of luck as you begin your birding adventure!

  260. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Carole,

    I think it’s really neat that you got an owl box for Christmas, and I hope an owl takes up residence although it may take some time for one to find it and move in. I’m assuming that the box you have is for an Eastern Screech-Owl which has a couple of songs that are described as a descending whinny and a long whistled trill all on one pitch. The owl you are hearing sounds more like a Great Horned Owl, but in either case, I don’t think your owl box or an owl in the neighborhood is the cause of your disappearing birds. A hungry Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk is the more likely culprit as they will often hang around birdy feeders in the hopes of catching an easy meal. Your birds will probably keep a low profile until the hawk gets tired of waiting for them to return and moves on to a new hunting spot.

    With regard to Purple Martins, the first scouts start to arrive in late January and early February, but the majority of them do not arrive until late February and early March. Younger birds can arrive at colonies even later as they search territories of their own, so don’t worry if the martins haven’t returned yet – they should be on their way!

  261. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Linda,

    Black-chinned Hummingbirds, which are our only nesting hummingbird in southwest Travis County/north Hays County, typically start arriving in early to mid March. In my yard in southwest Austin, the earliest arrival I’ve recorded for Black-chinned Hummingbird is March 12. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds typically start passing through in migration in mid to late March and continue passing moving through our area throughout April and into early May. However, many hummingbirds are now wintering in Central Texas, so hummingbirds of several different species, such as Rufous, Allen’s, Anna’s and Broad-tailed, could appear at your feeder at just about any time during the winter, so it pays to keep your feeders up (if you have them) and keep the food fresh and ready for them.

    Thank you for your interest in birds and happy hummingbirding!

  262. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Dave,

    Your photograph did not come through on the Ask A Birder website, but if you can send your photo to it will be forwarded to me and I will be happy to take a look (I’m thinking you may be seeing Great-tailed Grackles but would like to see your photo to confirm).

    Thanks for your interest in birds.

  263. Birdsrule says:

    Hello! I would like very much to begin birdwatching in my backyard, as well as on field trips. Is it possible to get an opinion on a good pair of binoculars that will aid in my endeavor? What special features should I look for that will ensure I can see the bird’s identifying features from a “reasonable” birdwatching distance?
    As this will be my first pair of binoculars, I have no idea about the cost. I am sure the cost begins low, and goes up from there depending on the strength of the lenses, the size of the view field, and the other “bells and whistles” it has. Could you give me a ballpark dollar amount that I can expect to spend on a good pair that will make my birdwatching a fun and exciting experience?
    Thanks bunches…Kay U

  264. David Whited says:

    Can you identify this bird.
    Tried to insert a photo but not sure if successful. I am from Ohio. this is a common downtown street pest in Austin apparently, Large crow size, yellow eye with black center, brown head and breast. Black back, wings and tail with a brown wing bar. Black legs. Stout black bill. Some brown on tail tip in think. Definately not bashful. =)

  265. Linda Swedberg says:

    Is it too early for scout hummingbirds to appear in southwest Travis/north Hays County?

  266. Carole Hanson says:

    I was given an owl nest box for Christmas, and hung it up a week ago. Ever since, very few of my usual birds are coming to my feeders. I have 3 sources of water, and make sure they are not frozen. Doves are still coming. I have heard a Hoo Hoo Hoo from what I assume is an owl, in the evenings, and sometimes in the early mornings, but have never seen the owl. Do you think that the nest box tells the other birds that it is not safe in my yard any more? There are lots of tall elm trees in the park behind my yard, and two in my yard. Also, aren’t the purple martin scouts supposed to come in January? I have an 8 plastic gourd bird house that I just pulled up from being down since last Sept.
    Thanks so much!
    Carole Hanson

  267. Charles Stephens says:

    My best guess is that you probably have a juvenile Rufous Hummingbird. It’s possible it could be the rarer Allen’s, but I am just going on probability. You can absolutely place a feeder out there for it and it is very possible that you could have a winter friend for years to come.

    I had such a friend years ago and named him “Rufi” after I saw him his second year and was in mature male plummage. I had Rufi for 5 years until I had to move to a new location.

    You might wonder, as I initially did, what about when the temperatures are well below freezing and how can they survive. Well, these amazing little creatures have a way of shutting down their bodies and go into what is known as a “topor”. It’s a survival mechanism to conserve energy in which they can drastically lower their body temperature and reduced their heart rate from the normal 250 to 50. Amazing….so enjoy your little feathered friend if it’s still around. Charles

  268. Corrina Hart says:

    I have a hummingbird visiting my Mexican Honeysuckle. It has a green back w/ bright coppery sides. It’s belly, chest, throat and area around it’s eyes are very pale, if not white. I saw it on 12/31 and again today, 1/3. What do you think it is? Should I put out a feeder?

  269. BirdAnswers says:


    As mentioned in my previous post, we have had some problems with our photo forwarding process and we have not been able to find the photos that you sent last month. However, I would really like to see your photos and help ID the birds in your yard, so if you could possibly send them again, I will make sure that they find their way to me. Please send them to Thanks so much for your patience and looking forward to seeing your photos.

  270. BirdAnswers says:


    We have been having some problems getting photos sorted out and sent to BirdAnswers for ID help, so I apologize for the delay in replying to your ID request. However, I did get a look at your photo today and I believe the bird you saw is an American Woodcock. It is a shorebird of the woodlands and prefers damp, brushy woods with lots of leaf litter; woodcocks migrate through our area and spend the winter in suitable habitat. While yards may seem like a strange place to find one, they are often drawn to areas that are watered/sprinkled, especially during really dry conditions. It’s method of movement is described in one of my books as walking “slowly with constant rocking and bobbing motion of body” which fits your description perfectly. Again, thanks for your patience and thanks for sharing such a neat bird.

  271. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Bettye,
    I apologize for the fact that you have not received an answer to your ID request. I found your initial request and the follow-up response providing you with an email address where you could send your photos. Unfortunately the photos you sent to that address have not been forwarded to me. I will contact the email host today to see if we can find your photos and get you a response as soon as possible. Again, I’m sorry for the delay.

  272. bettye williams says:

    I know I sent some pictures to you in late November. Has a reply been sent? If so, I have not seen it. Would you please see if you could locate my photos? I am anxious for an answer. Thanks so much.

  273. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi Logan,
    Great Horned Owls (along with Eastern Screech-Owls and and to a lesser extent Barred Owls) are actually pretty common in Austin and have adapted quite nicely to life in the city/suburbs, which I think is pretty cool! I have seen/heard them around my home in the Oak Hill area, in the neighborhoods around Sunset Valley, central Austin and in the Circle C area. I have even seen them in the fairly industrialized area around Burnet and Hwy 183. Their home territory, which they defend vigorously, ranges from about 1/3 of a square mile to about 5 square miles with 2.5 square miles being a typical size, so the bird that you are hearing and the one that your friend saw could very well be one in the same. Thanks for your interest in owls – they are really wonderful birds.

  274. Logan McNatt says:

    How common are Great Horned Owls in Austin? I live in south central Austin close to the intersection of Ben White Blvd and Manchaca Rd. For the last several months, several times a week, I have heard the classic hoo hoo hoooo of what I’m pretty sure is a GHO, from soon after dark until at least midnight. Lots of tall trees in the neighborhood. Have not been able to see it. A friend of mine who lives about 1.5 miles north near Zilker Elementary said he saw one last week. How big is their territory, and is it likely to be the same bird?

    Logan McNatt

  275. Milton says:

    E-mail with photo and requested information sent. Thanks for helping me out. I am very curious about this bird.

  276. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, I have an idea of what your bird might be, but it would be very useful for you to send us a photo. You can email it to and ask them to forward it to the “ask a birder” contact. Habitat clues would really help too. Is there a pond close by, for example? Is the area wooded,without much disturbance? Which part of town do you live in – are you rural?
    Thanks so much for asking.

  277. Milton says:

    I am having trouble identifying a bird seen in my yard for the last few days.

    The bird is about the size of a large quail or a little bigger, russet in color overall all, with dark brown spots on its back.

    It has a large dark bown eye patch completely around the eye.

    The bird has short legs, but an extremely long thin beak of about 4-5 inches. The beak is equal to about 1/3-1/2 of its body length.

    While on the ground it has no tail that can be seen, it appears to be tucked under its body similar to a duck or quail.

    It walks around under my oak trees in the flower beds prodding thru the mulch with its beak while making a funny bobbing motion almost like it is dancing.

    Have have a photo if needed, but the quality is not excellent.

  278. sally jacques says:

    Thank you so much for the info and for the work you do for our flying wonders.

  279. BirdAnswers says:

    HI, Sally:
    Bird activity in backyards is slow all over Austin right now, as your more desirable birds have enough natural food sources to lure them away from your backyard paradise. That may partially explain their absence. Grackles are native birds and their sometimes aggressive posturing would drive me away too, if I were a smaller bird! You might consider taking down your foods for a while to see if the grackles will forget your location. Leave the water though, as with this drought, all birds are needing a ready source, even grackles. If you have the room, you might even have a second water source, which would give other birds a fighting chance to get some. I have found that a hanging bird bath offers birds some protection from predators like cats. Nestling it in a tree seems to make it more appealing to timid birds. You can find one at a specialty wild bird store here in Austin.

    On another note, you might take a look at your yard. Are you gardening with native plants and do you have layers of habitat – like shrubs and small trees as well as canopy trees? My backyard has a postage stamp size patch of St. Augustine surrounded by perennials, native grasses and shrubs, and I have noticed that the grackles shun it. They prefer the large open expanses of St. Augustine grass punctuated with live oaks, that make up so many of our yards here. Check the Travis Audubon urban habitat page for suggestions of bird friendly plants.

    Another thing would be to diversify and add a suet feeder when it gets a little cooler. Hang it right next to a tree trunk and your grackles will be unable to access it,. Red pepper suet does not attract squirrels, but other flavors do. Last, try a thistle (niger seed) feeder to attract goldfinches and other clinging birds – the grackles do not cling and won’t be able to get to the seed.

    Thanks for caring about out wonderful birds.

  280. sally jacques says:

    i have water and food in my yard and for many months it was doves and sparrows, and blue jays. taking baths and eating. Crackles have now arrived in swarms and the other birds have stopped coming. What do you suggest?
    Thank you for you assistance.

  281. BirdAnswers says:

    HI, Karen, I have had the same experience at my home and many others are experiencing the same thing. It happens every year in October and November. Our regular visitors abandon the feeders and seem to go into hiding. They are just quietly going about their bird business and are finding lots of natural food sources, thanks to our rain earlier this year. Since they are not feeding baby birds right now, they are not quite as hungry. Your birds should come back soon. It sounds like you are doing everything right.

    We all can enhance our backyard habitats in some way, or help others to do so. Check the Urban Habitat website for ideas and a list of good native plants.

  282. Karen Casey says:

    I live in Blanco County. I have 2 finch feeders and 3 regular bird feeders in my yard and have for years fed finches, cardinals, and all sorts of other birds year-round. Starting about 6 weeks ago, no one is coming to my feeders. I thought maybe my seed had gotten old, so I bought new and re-filled the feeders. Still no visitors. There is water available in several places in the yard. I used to have so many birds, and now I have none. Can you help me figure out what is happening and what I might try to bring them back? (I also tried moving the feeders last week–still no visitors). I really miss my birds.
    Thanks for your help.

  283. BirdAnswers says:

    Hi, Bettye:
    That is great that you are participating in Project Feederwatch. You can send your photos to and we will take a look. But first, take a look at our Urban Habitat webpage where we have photos of common Austin backyard birds. Here is the link.

    There is an irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches this year in central Texas since their seed crop failed up north. They might come to your feeder so keep a lookout and listen for toot like a toy horn.

  284. bettye williams says:

    I began counting and identifying my back yards last November, 2011, for Project Feeder watch. I have done the best i could to identify most of the birds. I have pictures of some birds that I remain unsure about. If i mail a photo to you can you help ID it?
    where can I email it?
    bettye williams

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