Birds native to san antonio

Birds native to san antonio DEFAULT

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Friedrich Wilderness Park is the best local place to find the Golden-cheeked Warbler (GCWA) within Bexar County, TX. With work you can find GCWA territories there. The highest concentration of Golden-cheeks is in a north-facing valley canyon called Fern Dell at the north end of the park. It is a fairly strenuous hike to the top of the ridge that you then have to drop down into to get to the GCWA population. After you get to the bottom of Fern Dell, the trail climbs up the western arm of the Fern Dell canyon. There are probably more GCWAs found on this east facing arm than on the one you just dropped down into.

I have seen GCWAs both north and south of the spine of the ridge where you start to drop down into Fern Dell. Look and listen both directions.

The less strenuous route that our San Antonio Audubon Society field trips usually takes gets you to GCWAs more quickly than going directly to Fern Dell. You do not see them as concentrated as in Fern Dell, though. The field trips go the main trail system from the parking lot. We head towards the south end of the park, looking and listening for GCWAs. I have seen GCWAs between the along the front part of the park and the hikers' shelter at the end of the ridge that points east from the main ridge.

When you get to the hikers' shelter toward the south end of the park, make a right (west) and follow the trail uphill. You should be able to find GCWAs between this shelter and the shelter just before the crest of the ridge. I have heard three males countersinging at the upper hikers' shelter. The birds between the upper hikers' shelter and where the trail gets to the top of the ridge have been quite cooperative.

From there you can follow the trail along the front of the ridge northward to the Fern Dell trail junction. I have seen GCWAs along the front of the ridge. You pass a major trail juction, one arm of which goes to the west side of the ridge. I have seen GCWAs near a 3rd hikers' shelter on the west side of the ridge. Another alternative is a marked shortcut from the front side of the ridge to the west side of the ridge. This shortcut heads westward about half way to the north end of the park.  


San Antonio Valley

The San Antonio Valley IBA encompasses the land lying between the San Antonio and Nacimiento Rivers from their headwaters in the Santa Lucia Mountains to their confluence with the upper Salinas River, and an extensive riparian corridor on the Salinas River between the two confluences. Most of the land lies within the Ft. Hunter-Liggett (DoD) but the IBA also includes land within Camp Roberts, the Los Padres National Forest, and private land along the lower San Antonio and Nacimiento. Two huge reservoirs, Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento, are included.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|}

Updated by Monterey Peninsula Audubon, September

Ornithological Summary

The avifauna of concern has four distinct elements. First, one of the best remaining stands of primary oak savanna lies between the middle San Antonio and Nacimiento Rivers within Ft. Hunter-Liggett. This savanna has the highest densities of oak savanna species in North America, according to the Breeding Bird Survey data (D. Roberson, in litt). Second, the grassland and rocky gorges south of the oak savanna have active Prairie Falcon eyries and, much of the area is historic California Condor breeding and foraging habitat. Third, the two large reservoirs have breeding Bald Eagles along their shores (following a reintroduction effort by Ventana Wildlife Society in the s), augmented in winter by wintering migrants; attract a large flock of American White Pelican each winter; and (when water levels premit) host a substantial breeding population of Western and Clark's Grebes. Finally, the riparian corridor along the Salinas River, particularly between the confluences of the San Antonio and Nacimiento, is designated as "critical habitat" for Least Bell's Vireo (a few nested in s and s), and has the highest densities of riparian obligate species in coastal central California.

Help us learn more about the birds at this IBA! Enter your birding data online at Calfornia eBird! (

Conservation Issues

The habitats within the San Antonio Valley IBA are reasonably well protected within Ft. Hunter-Liggett and Los Padres National Forest, and Camp Roberts has undertaken some riparian restoration. Although sensitive species are managed carefully, the oak savanna avifauna as a whole has received comparatively little attention. Conservationists have voiced concerns about the regeneration of large oaks and the long-term survival of this uniquely Californian habitat. Competition with non-native European Starlings are a problem in the oak savanna and at a few ephemeral colonies of Purple Martin, and cowbird parasitism is a major concern within the riparian corridors. Further, much of the best riparian habitat on the upper Salinas River is in private hands and has been overrunn by cattle for decades, reducing chances for success of nesting vireos and providing openings for cowbirds.


Most of the land lies within Ft. Hunter Liggett (DoD) but the IBA also includes land within Camp Roberts, the Los Padres National Fores, and private land along the lower San Antonio and Nacimiento.


Encompassing most of the San Antonio River and its tributaries, this IBA is characterized by a vast, unbroken oak savannah and scattered riparian corridors, surrounded by rocky canyon lands. Massive San Antonio Reservoir (?Lake San Antonio?), the dammed eastern portion of the San Antonio River, lies just to the southeast.

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August/September cover image

12 Birds Every Texan Should Know

A short starter list for those who long to put a name with a beak.

By Cliff Shackelford

Every Texan is familiar with icons like the Alamo and the state Capitol, but how many of our feathered friends can you identify? Northern cardinal, blue jay, grackle … Those are pretty easy, but there are so many more!

Birding is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the U.S. With species of birds documented in Texas, things really are bigger and better here in the Lone Star State. Birding in Texas is year-round, thanks to our location and diverse eco-regions, and can be rewarding in every corner of the state. TPWD's wildlife trails make it easier than ever to find the best birding hot spots.

Learning to identify all our state’s birds can be a daunting task, so here’s a list that’s been trimmed down to some of the more ubiquitous and easily seen species.

So, armed with this starter list and a helpful birding guidebook and a pair of binoculars, head out to your yard and see how many you can spot and identify. Once you’ve conquered your own little patch of green, try it at a state park. Bring family and friends and turn it into a contest. You’ll find being bird-brained is fun for everyone.



Northern Mockingbird

Such a list, of course, has to begin with the state bird of Texas. This gray and white bird makes up for its drab appearance with a voice that could compete in any singing competition. The Latin name (Mimus polyglottos), which translates loosely to “the many-tongued mimic,” really sums up this songster. Instead of singing its own song, this bird performs like a tribute band playing an original band’s song note for note. A seasoned male mockingbird can sing the songs of dozens of other species found nearby and make a variety of other vocalizations, from frog sounds to car alarms.



Red-Tailed Hawk

Known colloquially as the “chicken hawk,” this large raptor can be seen in just about any open habitat, with numbers reaching their peak in Texas during the cold winter months. Often seen sitting on a commanding perch along our highways, the hawks look as if they’re watching traffic pass by when, in fact, the grassy medians support lots of tasty rodents. This fondness for rodents makes them good neighbors for us. Instead of red, look on the top of the tail for more of a terracotta-orange color. While it’s perched, two of its best features are often visible on many but not all individuals: a dark belly-band across its white underparts and the messy white blotches on an otherwise chocolate-colored back.



Great Blue Heron

More old-timers refer to this species as a “blue crane,” but this heron is not related to cranes. This tall wetland inhabitant will hunt for fish, frogs, crayfish and the like in just about any creek, pond, lake or roadside ditch. With an overall grayish color, this bird does have hints of blue-gray here and there. In flight, the great blue heron might conjure up beliefs that pterodactyls still fly our friendly skies. When waters freeze in winter, don’t expect these birds to chip away at the ice. Instead, watch them switch to dry upland settings in search of rodents. Who knows, maybe a switch from slimy fish to furry rats every now and then breaks the monotony!



Barn Swallow

Some call it the “mud swallow” because it builds open, cup-shaped nests from mud on bridges, culverts, porches and patios. If a nest shows up on your front porch, you might have to deal with occasional dive-bombs from a protective parent and a small pile of poop you’ll have to wash off. These aerial insectivores are good neighbors, though, since they eat a lot of our yard’s pesky insects; in some cultures, it’s a sign of good luck if the nesting birds select your home. Watch for their deeply forked tail and, when the sunlight hits them just right, a beautiful iridescence of dark blue-purple on the head, back and tail. There are two other mud-nesting swallows in Texas, the cliff and cave swallows, but neither has a forked tail. Also, the cliff swallow sets itself apart in terms of architectural design with a gourd-shaped mud nest.



Turkey Vulture

Early American settlers from Europe confused this carrion eater with the “buzzard” back home, but the two aren’t alike. Though the name “buzzard” is used in other parts of the world for hawks, it refuses to be erased from our vocabulary for vultures. When soaring, this vulture has a silvery tinge to the trailing edge of the entire wing. When they’re feasting on roadkill, notice their milk chocolate coloration and, in adults, a red featherless head. Only a mother could love a face like that. There is another species of vulture in Texas: the black vulture. The black vulture sports a gray featherless head and is dark black. During flight, black vultures also have the silvery tinge to their wings but only on the outer tips. If we didn’t have vultures, our roadways would soon be overrun with smelly, unsightly roadkill.




How great would it be if every bird were named for its vocalization, like this one? A resounding “kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee” can be heard not only in natural settings, but also in ball fields and parking lots. In flight, watch for the fiery orange rump and pointy wings and, when perched, watch for two distinctive black bands across the breast resembling wide necklaces. If you approach one and find it limping away with a drooped wing and loud cries, know that you’re being duped. This action — called feigning — is designed to lure you away from a nearby ground nest or nestlings, so tread lightly.



House Sparrow

This species is not native to the Western Hemisphere. Introduced more than a century ago, it has spread from Alaska to Argentina and all points in between, including Texas. Our state’s first sighting was in Galveston in If there are a few houses or grain silos around, there will be house sparrows. They’re actually weaver finches; folks who have found their bulky nests constructed of wispy grasses can attest to this. Purple martin landlords who aren’t monitoring their nest boxes can get overrun with these pesky sparrows. The male has a black goatee; the female is very dull and plain, but her pale eyebrow is readily seen. In urban settings, this is the expected sparrow in parking lots, often gathering into huge, noisy roosts each evening.



Brown-headed Cowbird

This bird evolved with the ever-moving herds of bison, and the constant moving never allowed it to settle down and raise a family. So it developed a habit of dumping its eggs into the nests of unsuspecting foster parents. Now they follow livestock, bringing them closer to a wider array of foster parents. This creates conservation concerns for other bird species. The cowbird’s name makes sense once you’ve spotted a male with a shiny-black body and flat-brown head. The female, however, doesn’t have the same paint job. She has no streaks, no spots, no speckles, no bling — just one shade of earth-tone, grayish-brown. Watch for them to attack your seed feeder or cruise through a mowed lawn.



Red-winged Blackbird

In springtime, no other bird is more noticeable or recognizable than the male red-winged blackbird. He sports striking epaulets of crimson red against a glossy black body. The female, though, has a completely different appearance. Heavily streaked and looking like a jumbo-sized sparrow (which is the section of the bird book where many new birders look to identify her), she is likely the most misidentified bird in our state. Look for her noticeable pale eyebrow and that blackbird-like bill. She’s often in flocks with other females of her kind, and, in the breeding season, she becomes one of her mate’s many girlfriends; he maintains a harem, which he fiercely guards and protects.



Eurasian Collared-Dove

This non-native dove first arrived in Texas via Texarkana in and quickly spread throughout the state. In urban settings, watch for a large pale dove with a black ring around the collar. More importantly, open your ears to the incessant cooing sounds of these doves, as they are prolific singers. A unique vocalization they make as they’re taking flight or about to land is reminiscent of a loud kitty’s meow. If you spot them at the seed feeder, you’ll see that these doves are larger than their native cousins, the white-winged and mourning doves. The collared dove has taken the place of the paler, ringed turtle-dove, another non-native dove, and appears to be calling Texas home for a long time to come.



American Coot

I don’t think it’s a compliment to be called an “old coot,” but it’s OK to spot some on a nearby lake or reservoir. Since this bird needs a running start in order to take off from the water, it doesn’t hang out in small bodies of water. If you find one there, it’s usually an indication that inclement weather grounded the bird and the runway is too short for it to take off again. Commonly occurring in rafts, or large floating flocks of birds, this all-dark bird has a pale white bill and feeds on aquatic organisms and vegetation. This species, no relation to ducks, pours into Texas during fall to spend the winter months where water doesn’t freeze, but watch for most to head north in spring. Some stick around throughout the year and raise a family. The young look similar in shape but have a whitish head that distinguishes them from mom and dad.



Cattle Egret

Sometimes referred to as “cow birds” for their fondness of following cattle, these birds are fairly new to Texas, making their debut here in on Mustang Island. They follow cattle because, while walking or grazing, big bovines flush insects hiding in the grass. Those insects are precisely what the egret desires. The egret is not plucking ticks off the hides of livestock, a common misbelief. During the breeding season, watch for straw-colored patches of feathers on the head, breast and back of these otherwise white birds. These birds seek refuge in numbers. Their communal nesting colonies, called rookeries (or, more correctly, heronries), can be very large, with nests numbering in the thousands and often mixed with other species of egrets, herons, ibises, cormorants and more. There’s great safety in numbers — humans live in similar settings we just call neighborhoods.


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San Antonio Birding Blog


Local birders doing a survey for the San Antonio River Authority in Concepcion Park, south of downtown, discovered a Blue Bunting along the San Antonio River on February 24, The bunting is normally found in Mexico and occasionally appears in the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas. The Blue Bunting is a life bird for much of the San Antonio birding community, so the visitor attracted abundant attention. My photo was taken on March 2 across the river from where the bird perched in a tree branch. I used a zoom lens, and the photo is not great, but I was happy I was able to see this beautiful rarity. Concepcion Park has numerous water fowl, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds. I was thrilled to see a male Belted Kingfisher enjoying a crustacean for lunch, along with an elegant Snow Egret and a Greater Yellowlegs (standing on one yellow leg with the other tucked underneath) nearby.


To birds san antonio native

Area Birds

Alamo Area Master Naturalist Patricia (“Patsy”) Kuentz is this piece’s author.  This basic article is geared toward new birders.

Using binoculars can often help in seeing details that assist in identifying birds. A reasonable binocular for beginners have an 8×25 description.  To get started using binoculars, be sure they are adjusted for your eyes, and then always keep looking at the bird while you bring the binoculars up to your eyes.  (For more information on binoculars, take a look at REI article. Bird guides, whether phone apps or books are very helpful, too. For learning about and identifying birds both The Sibley Guide to Birds and Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America are two of several favorites among birders.

Although the first inclination for novice birders is often to focus on color, better identification technique suggests that size, shape, activity, eating habits, flight patterns, appearing solo or in a group, and location are even more critical for correct identification.  For instance, if you see a lone bird the size of a Northern Cardinal scratching in the leaf litter on the ground in brushy areas, it is quite likely a Spotted Towhee trying to uncover its favorite small insects or seeds for a tasty meal.

Recent bird surveys of Phil Hardberger Park indicate that more than species of birds have been recorded in the park, many of them along the Oak Loop Trail.  Although there is no guarantee that you will see any of these bird species on your visit (birds have wings, and they use them!), keep your eye out for some of the more common birds of the area.  See Bird List &#; Phil Hardberger Park Updated for


Look skyward and you might see soaring Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures.  Occasionally, you may observe groups of three or more eating a dead animal on the ground.  Large birds, they often hang out on the tops of light poles along Wurzbach Parkway, drying their wings after a rain, sunning themselves, and/or looking for a road kill meal or a small rodent along the side of the road.  Although the shape of both types of vultures perching is very similar, when flying the Turkey Vulture wobbles as if it were constantly correcting its balance.  Not as common, Northern Caracaras (called Mexican Eagles by some) periodically patrol the park looking for carrion. (Because of its distinctive coloration, the Northern Caracara is sometimes mistaken for a Bald Eagle.) The vultures and caracaras are real public servants in helping keep our park clean and preventing the spread of disease from rotting material.

What do you think would happen if there were no vultures to eat the carcasses of dead animals?

Red-shouldered Hawks frequent the skies of this area, too. One Red-shouldered Hawk, in fact, often hangs around the recently developed Alamo Area Master Naturalist Wildscape Demonstration Garden not far from the Urban Ecology Center.  White-winged Doves, whose call is sometimes thought to be similar to that of a Barred Owl, are also commonly seen flying in groups in the park.  During migration periods, large aggregations of blackbirds such as Great-tailed Grackles can be visible from the Oak Loop Trail.  Because this section of the park has no permanent pond, ducks are not particularly common here, however, you might get an occasional look at a group of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flying overhead between ponds near the park or taking off from the wetland area near Northwest Military Highway.


The many tree-level birds in Phil Hardberger Park include woodpeckers such as the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker, whose undulating flight patterns are good identification clues. They are joined in this area by Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, Bewick’s Wrens, Lesser Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadees, and Black-crested Titmice. The Northern Mockingbird, our Texas state bird, is easily heard and usually seen on the Oak Loop Trail. Its various loud songs imitate those of other birds found locally.


Since plants in the park’s restored savanna have reached maturity, keep an eye out for various native sparrows such as Lincoln&#;s Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows, since they will enjoy the many seeds and insects that will be available there.  Be sure to watch for motion in the path ahead of you.  If you are quiet and very lucky, you might spot a Greater Roadrunner.  This long-tailed, large bird streaked with gray could be trotting across the path in search of a tasty lizard.

So what is the best place to look for birds?


The park also has many winter bird visitors.  American Goldfinches join us from the north to share our warmer winters.  In their duller, winter feather colors, they are not the brilliant gems one might find them in the summer in Minnesota, but they are delightful guests nevertheless.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets also flitter around quickly in the trees feasting on tasty insects.  With luck and a keen eye, one might even spy a visiting Green-tailed Towhee prowling around in the underbrush.  Several warblers migrate through this area, but only a few, such as the Orange-crowned Warbler and the aptly named Yellow-rumped Warbler, routinely stay here for the winter.   A rare and exciting early spring find would be an endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler migrating through Hardberger Park on the way to its nesting area in northern Bexar County. In fact, on March 11, , now Nature Preserve Officer Wendy Leonard observed a Golden-cheeked Warbler in Phil Hardberger Park (East) for a short period of time as it made its way to breeding areas in northern Bexar County and the Hill Country.


Click the link for another article about Birdwatching in Phil Hardberger Park by master naturalist Lora Reynolds.

For more information for children see, Breakfast for a Bird.

Top 10 Birds of Texas

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