Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, Ben Jones, guest blogs on ZooHoo!
With 98.5% of all North American migratory birds, and 637 of the 957 total North American bird species recorded in our state, you can say Texas is for the birds! Feeding and identifying birds is an amazing nature adventure that’s fun, intellectually challenging and pleasant to watch and listen.
The average yard has 15 different bird species visitors. With a little effort, you can increase your species count to around 50.
Tips to increase your yard bird count:
- Try offering different foods.
- Place feeders at different levels. Birds find their food by sight and like to eat at the same level they would find their food in the wild.
- Try a high quality seed mix to attract cardinals, blue jays, doves, chickadees, and titmice.
- Add peanuts into the mix for woodpeckers and nuthatch.
- Add thistle seed this winter for finches. You’ll need a special feeder for thistle or you can pour it into a mesh sock.
- Suet is a great bird food for winter. Fatty suet provides extra energy for birds during cold months
Some bird species live here year-round, and some are migratory and travel with the seasons. The Christmas Bird Count is the oldest citizen science initiative in the world with tens of thousands of people counting resident and migratory birds. This year on an unseasonably warm Saturday, 37 participants from the Dallas Count Circle identified 107 total species at and around the Dallas Zoo. Some special bird species spotted this year include the greater and lesser yellowlegs, loggerhead shrike, Bewick’s wren and a horned grebe.
This winter watch for resident species like blue jays, northern cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadee, woodpeckers and mourning, inca and white-wing doves. Also, look closely for migratory species like dark-eyed juncos, American goldfinches, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches.
Of course, where there is an abundance of bird activity, there could always be bird-eaters. Make sure your cats stay indoors and watch for raptors like Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks.
So, what are you waiting for? Put out a few feeders. Try some new seed mixes. Sip a hot chocolate and let the winter bird fun begin!