Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Sunday, December 20, 2015
North Texas hosts more birds in cool weather than in warm months
What with all the talk of Hummingbirds leaving
and other birds migrating to warmer climates, you may have gotten the
impression that this area is empty of birds until spring. Nothing could be
farther from the truth, and a look out your window may be enlightening. There
are clearly more birds in north Texas in the fall and winter, than in the
spring and summer.
True, some birds (like
Hummingbirds, Buntings and Swallows) have left for their annual winter haunts
in South and Central America. Other birds (like Goldfinches, true Sparrows,
Juncos and Kinglets) are arriving in north Texas as we speak, after being up
northall summer. To them, this IS
south. Our comparatively mild winters agree with them.
Many, many other birds stay right
here. These include Cardinals, Chickadees, Mockingbirds, Titmice and Woodpeckers.
Of these, some are what’s called “partial migrators” – Robins for example. The
ones that live here stay here. But the Robins that were in, for instance, Ohio
last summer, come down here for the winter. So populations of some species
actually swell, although they’re less active in cool weather.
In actuality, many of the cool
weather birds are already arriving here. Even at this date, a few Juncos,
Kinglets and Goldfinches have been seen. Cedar Waxwings and Flycatchers normally arrive here a
week or so after that. The true Sparrows, like the White-throated Sparrows and Harris' Sparrows, are
already here in throngs.
Sadly, wild birds have a high
mortality in cool weather – it varies among species, but can be as high as 70%
of the first-year birds. This is mainly from exposure to the winds and weather,
coupled with a lack of fresh, energy-producing food.
Birds, like us, want to get out of
the weather (especially at night) and conserve energy by staying relatively
warm. They seek out “roosts” for the night. Roosts can be almost any warm,
protective space. Some species, Chickadees are one, huddle together in a mass,
sharing body heat.
In winter, birds need bathing
water to stay warm too. At first, this seemed odd to me too, but not after
discovering why they fluff up their feathers. The fluffing creates tiny air
pockets, which insulate birds’ bodies quite well. Dirty feathers, however, won’t
fluff up. So birds need to bathe in the winter (the actual
bath takes only about a few seconds).
Bathing, warm roosts and fresh
food are what birds need in cool weather. North Texans have been doing a good
job of providing these basics, so we continue to have more birds here in cool
weather, than the spring and summer.
Northern Cardinal (right)
Owen Yost, in addition to blogging,
is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, who‘s worked in north Texas
for over 30 years.He is a member of the
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of
Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife
Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement
award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at firstname.lastname@example.org