Because of our mild winters, East Texas provides great opportunities to watch winter migrations. The Texas Bird Records Committee has recognized 636 species as Texas Birds! Birding fulfills many of our basic criteria for good outdoor recreation, something the whole family can get involved in, and for very little money. All you need is a good pair of binnoculars and a bird field guide book to identify the birds you see.
Our State Bird
Birdwatching, or 'Birding' as it is more often referred to, is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. By creating a habitat that is welcoming to the birds that visit your backyard, you can enjoy the hobby without leaving the comfort of your patio or even your living room.
How can you be sure that the bird you are watching is what you think it is? Let's be honest. Most birds don't stop and 'strike a pose' just like in your birding field guide so you can identify them! Most of them flutter around very quickly and you only have a few seconds to try and identify them. There are however, a few things you can do to make identification easier for you.
First, place your yard features that are attracting your birds in a prominent place that is easy to see. Fountains, ponds, bird feeders and berry baring plants should be placed to allow you easy access for bird watching.
Second, always have your field guide handy. Compare beaks, colors, feet, bellies and tails to the birds in the guide.
Common Backyard Birds
Mourning Dove- the Mourning Dove is found throughout most of North America. It has a long pointed tail. The Dove is usually a gray brown color with large black spots on the wings.
Where do they nest? The Mourning Dove will nest in trees or bushes 5 to 25 feet from the ground within a short distance of the feeder.
What do they eat? Mourning Doves usually eat seeds from the ground, and prefer canola, corn, millet, safflower and sunflower seeds.
How do I attract them? Mounring Doves love running water and you can attract more birds this way, although they do like bird baths. Stock your ground tray feeders with cracked corn, millet and especially sunflowers.
Black-chinned Hummingbird - This is the most common hummingbird west of the Interstate 35 corridor. While it does occur East of 35, it is generally replaced there by its cousin, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Hummingbirds fly with very fast wing beats, approx. 70 per second! and often move very fast making them difficult to see. Their long bill and habit of pumping their tail when hovering distinguish them from their Ruby-throated counterparts. If the light is right, you might see a purple band below their black chin.
Where do they nest? Black-chinned Hummingbirds prefer tall trees. Nests are usually 6-12 ft. high.
What do they eat? Hummingbirds love nectar from flowers, small insects and spiders. A favorite is sugar water from feeders.
How do I attract them? Make sugar water mixtures with about one quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Change the water before it gets cloudy. During hot spells, like we have during the summer here in East Texas, change your water frequently to prevent it from fermenting.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - this species is the most common East of Interstate 35. But is has also been found as far west as El Paso! When resting the tail extends way beyond the tip of the wings and it does not use its tail much when hovering.
Where do they nest? Nests are usually found between 10-40 feet above ground, usually in deciduos trees such as birch, oak and poplar.
What do they eat? These hummingbirds love tubular flowers- such as bee-balm, red morning glories, and honeysuckles.
How do I attract them? Feeders and flower gardens are great ways to attract hummingbirds. Enjoy them while they are around though, because by early fall they migrate to Central America, with many crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight!
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Found East of Tnerstate 35, this is the most common woodpecker in Texas. The Red-bellied woodpecker sports a red nape, spotted rump and a small white patch on the underside of the wings.
Where do they nest? Mainly in dead trees, The sam epair may nest in the same tree year after year. They usually have 2-6 eggs.
What do they eat? Though this bird mainly eats insects, spiders and other arthropods, it eats plenty of plant material too! It really likes acorns, nuts and pine cones.
How do I attract them? Red-bellied Woodpeckers love suet in the winter months, as well as peanuts and sunflower seeds. During the summer months they eat insects from the trees.
Blue Jay - This large blue and white bird with its black mask and necklace is quite familiar to people in East Texas. A long blue tail with obvious white edging and plain gray breast.
Where do they nest? They build their nests in the thich outer branches of deciduous trees usually 10-25 feet above ground. They have been known to abandon their nests after detecting a nearby predator. They normally lay between 2-7 eggs.
What do they eat? Blue Jays love acorns! They will also eat grains, insects and other nuts.
How do I attract them? Blue Jays prefer tray feeders or a hopper feeder on a post rather than hanging feeders. They prefer peanuts, sunflower seeds and suet. They often drink from bird baths.
Tufted Titmouse - A lesser known East Texas resident, the Tufted Totmouse is gray in color with a little gray crest on its head and sports orange flanks and a black forehead.
Where do they nest? They like to use natural holes left by woodpeckers but will also use nest boxes, fenceposts and metal pipes. They lay 3-9 eggs.
What do they eat? Tufted Titmouse eat mainly insects in the summer, but int he winter they really like seeds, nuts and berries.
How do I attract them? They prefer sunflower seeds but will eat suet, peanuts, and other seeds as well. They make their nests in cavities, so putting up nest boxes is a great way to attract this bird.
Carolina Wren - Another os our Eastern birds, this species sports a red-brown back, mid-length tail, white eye stripe and a longer pointed, slightly curved down bill. Its spotted wings and rump and rich buffy orange breast help to identify it.
Where do they nest? These birds nest in open holes, 3-6 feet off the ground, in pretty much any safe, secure spot. They lay 3-7 eggs.
What do they eat? Insects and spiders make up the bulk of their diet.
How do I attract them? Caroline Wrens like suet-filled feeders in the winter months and they will take shelter in nest boxes containing dried grasses.
Carolina Chickadee - This small bird is found throughout East Texas. Often mis-taken for the Black-capped Chichadee which does not occur in east Texas, the Carolina Chickadee is a small gray bird with a long tail, black cap and bib, white cheeks and a buff colored belly
Where do they nest? Usually 2-25 feet up in a tree. They lay between 3-10 eggs.
What do they eat? Mostly insects and spiders. They do however readily use bird feeders.
How do I attract them? Carolina Chickadees like to visit feeders for sunflower seeds, peanut chips and suet. Make sure you have fresh peanuts that stay dry so no mold forms on them.
Beswick's Wren - This little bird is found throughout East Texas. It is a browner bird than the Carolina Wren and with a longer tail that is tipped in white at the corners. Its belly is grey.
Where do they nest? A Beswick Wren usually builds its nest in cavities or on ledges within about 30 feet of the ground. They also like brush piles and nest boxes. They lay 3-8 eggs.
What do they eat? mainly insects throughout the summer months and in winter seeds, fruits and other plant matter.
How do I attract them? While Wren's eats mostly insects, they also like bread crumbs, peanut butter, suet and chopped apples. Beswick's Wren also really like water, so placing a bird bath in your yard will greatly help your odds of attracting this little bird.
American Robin - This very familiar large bird is found throughout the state and is known for its red breast, black head and gray back.
Where do they nest? Female Robins choose the nest site which is usually in the lower half of the tree hidden below a layer of dense leaves. They aly 3-5 eggs.
What do they eat? In the spring an summer months Robin's will eat a large number of earthworms as well as insects and some snails. Robins also eat an enormous variety of fruits.
How do I attract them? Providing a source of water is one of the surest ways too attract Robins to your back yard. Try placing raisins, suet, strawberries, and grapes on a fruit feeder hung from a pole or attached to a tree.
Northern Cardinal - The 'redbird' as the Northern Cardinal is often called, is a red bird with a black mask, long tail and a red bill. The female does not look at all like the mail, being grayer with an orange crest.
Where do they nest? A Cardinal can take up to 2 weeks to choose a nesting site. Nets tend to be wedged into a fork of small branches in a sapling or vine tangle, usually 1-15 feet from the ground and hidden in dense leaves. They lay 2-5 eggs.
What do they eat? Cardinals eat mainly seeds and fruits, supplementing those with insects.
How do I attract them? Nearly any bird feeder will attract Cardinals, and they are particullary fond of sunflower seeds. They also prefer Hopper type feeders and platform feeders.
American Goldfinch - Seen mostly in the winter here in East Texas, these are bright yellow birds with black wings and a black forehead that flock to sunflower and thistle feeders. The female is a paler yellow.
Where do they nest? The nest is uually high in a shrub where 2 or 3 vertical branches join and usually shaded by leaves. They lay 2-7 eggs.
What do they eat? Goldfinchs eat seeds almost exclusively.
How do I attract them? These birds don't prefer any certain style of feeder and are just as happy to eat the fallen seeds from the ground. They really prefer sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds.
House Finch - the House Finch is a gray streaked bird with a rather long, slightly notched tail and an orange red bluch to the head and breast. Its head is plain with a short beak.
Where do they nest? House Finches nest in a variety of tree types as well as on rock ledges and cactus! They lay 2-6 eggs.
What do they eat? House Finches eat mostly seeds, buds and fruits.
How do I attract them? Finches don't prefer any special type of feeder and will feed from most. They are attracted to a wide variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower, millet and canary seeds, but they are especially fond of Nyjer or Thistle seeds.