About Chaetura Canyon
Chaetura Canyon was created in 2006 when Georgean and Paul Kyle donated the eight-acre core property and their residence to Travis Audubon to be protected and maintained as a bird sanctuary while retaining a Life Estate.
“The main purpose of Chaetura Canyon is to preserve, in perpetuity, a small piece of natural habitat within a rapidly urbanizing area of Central Texas while providing a safe place for native species of birds to forage, raise their young and rest during migration.”
By 2021, Chaetura Canyon had been expanded to 12 acres due to the generosity of TAS members and supporters.
Chaetura Canyon is situated on the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau, 1.25 miles southwest of Mansfield Dam, in Travis County, approximately 12 miles northwest of Austin, Texas.
This steep and rugged site is typical of the area, which has come to be known as the Balcones Canyonland. The highest elevation is 760 feet and includes about one acre of open field with shallow soil, grasses and forbs. The canyon walls consist of numerous limestone outcroppings and ledges. A wet-weather creek plunges to an elevation of 600 feet at the lowest point before leaving the site and ultimately emptying into the Colorado River.
Native mammals that have been recorded include White-tailed Deer, Grey Fox, Raccoon, Ringtail, Fox Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, Virginia Opossum, Eastern Cottontail, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, Hog-nosed Skunk, Nine-banded Armadillo, Mexican Free-tailed Bat and an occasional Porcupine. A variety of native reptiles such as Texas Spiny Lizards and Fence Lizards are also present. Coral Snakes are rare, while Texas Rat Snakes, Patch-nosed Snakes and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are fairly common. Leopard Frogs, Cliff Frogs and Strecker’s Chorus Frogs commonly fill the summer evenings with their songs.
A federally permitted bird banding station was located on the sanctuary for 15 years and helped identify 171 species of birds since conservation and research activities began in 1987. These include many Hill Country specialties such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Chuck-will’s Widow, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, Canyon Wren, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Painted Bunting. In all, more than 30 species nest on or near the sanctuary — including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler.
The name of the sanctuary comes from Chaetura pelagica, the scientific name for Chimney Swifts. The site has become an important and internationally recognized observatory for the study of these common but little-known birds.
Chaetura Canyon Bird Sanctuary is a nature preserve and not a park. It is only open to the public for specific scheduled events. Georgean and Paul continue live on the property where they serve as Stewards and oversee maintenance, tours and events.
Chaetura Canyon is open for special events and programs only. Please see the Calendar listing for dates and times.
CHAETURA CANYON IN THE MEDIA
Chaetura Canyon was featured in the October 16, 2010 episode of Central Texas Gardener by local public television station KLRU.