Posts from Bexar Audubon Society about
birding and conservation articles, programs, webinars, classes,
and other newsworthy items for BAS members.
September 2, 2023
When It’s Okay
to Feed Birds
Providing food—for photography or simple enjoyment—can be a thorny issue. For guidance, ask yourself these three questions.
- Is this species at risk?
- Is the food appropriate and safely provided?
- Is feeding this bird likely to change its behavior in harmful ways?
To read thoughtful discussions of the answers to each of these questions, check out this article from National Audubon.
August 31, 2023
Hummingbird Feeding Frenzy
at West Texas Camera Cam Feeder
We imagine that you would get excited when you see a Rufous Hummingbird or a Calliope Hummingbird – we do! Just a quick look at one of these species will make our day, maybe our year. But imagine a scene with the above species along with Broad-tailed and Black-throated Hummingbirds in a continuous feeding frenzy, and then a rare Lucifer Hummingbird flies into view. A link to a remarkable video is included here for you to be astonished – that’s right, get ready to be astonished by the action in this video at https://youtu.be/zOet2wbCwR8
You can also watch the action at the West Texas hummingbird feeder live at West Texas Feeders | Cornell Lab Bird Cams Cornell Lab Bird Cams (allaboutbirds.org) where you can also get more information about the hummingbirds you see on the live camera feed, including tips on how to identify the different species. You can likewise view pre-recorded video highlights from recent days. The West Texas Feeder Cam and the associated information is provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is powered by Perky-Pet, a company that specializes in quality birding equipment. Perky-Pet also provides all the feeders at this interesting birding site.
You can also get a LOT of hummingbird action at your backyard feeders right now. Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are tanking up in preparation for fall migration and are right down FRANTIC. Please keep your feeders full to help these mighty mites on their way during this very dry time: 1/4 cup of white sugar in 1 cup of hot tap water. Cool and replenish your feeder as often as necessary.
Read more about Hummingbird Mania HERE.
May 25, 2023
What Should I Do If I Find a Nest
Where It Doesn’t Belong?
Sometimes birds nest too close to home.
Experts share what to do if you find birds raising young on your house or building.
Some birds are quite comfortable building their homes right next to ours. It’s not uncommon to see Mourning Doves in an air-conditioning vent, Eastern Phoebes on a windowsill, American Robins in a wreath, or House Finches in flowerpots.
If you find one, what should you do about it? Find your options HERE.
Signed Copies of Bruce Beehler Books Available from Author
Ornithologist Bruce Beehler spoke to BAS on April 26, 2023 about his travels in search of the Hudsonian Godwit. He has authored many books and will sign and ship them to you if you email him to place your order. Information about titles available and his email address can be found here.
April 4, 2023
Birding Changes Your Brain
At Harvard University, associate professor Rose Goldman incorporates bird identification into her Practice of Medicine class to help sharpen students’ clinical diagnostic skills. During lectures, for example, Goldman asks students to differentiate between a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret by focusing on details such as size, beak shape, and foot color that distinguish the long-legged, long necked, similar white species. Goldman, an avid birder, also leads students on birding outings.
At first, it might not seem like cardinals and carcinomas have anything in common, but Goldman believes the process of differentiating between similar birds isn’t all that different from examining the subtleties of a patient’s rash to determine whether to treat eczema or test for skin cancer. “I personally feel that my powers of observation and memory have really improved from birding, but I have no way to prove that,” Dr. Goldman explained.
With her unique teaching strategy, Goldman is using something that neuroscientists know well: Gaining deep expertise in a subject area can change your mental scaffolding, literally rewiring your brain. To better understand this process, brain and memory researchers have long turned to birders (and occasionally medical students) as a go-to group of test subjects – even in foundational cognitive research.
Read more HERE.
This article originally was published in the current issue of Audubon magazine as “The Birding Brain Boost,” and you can refer to the associated website-based article at Yes, Birding Does Change Your Brain | Audubon
April 3, 2023
When You Should—and Should Not—”Rescue” Baby Birds
The vast majority of baby birds that people encounter are weeks-old fledglings—not newly born nestlings. And this distinction is critical, wildlife rehabbers say, because most fledglings don’t need to be rescued.
To know when you should intervene—and how you can help if needed—read more HERE.
March 29, 2023
For the Love of Bluebirds and
Other Cavity Nesting Birds
North America is home to the only bluebirds in the world; 3 species, appropriately named for their respective ranges – Western, Eastern, and Mountain Bluebirds. These small colorful birds provide characteristic spring songs for many birders across the continental United States and southern Canada. Bluebirds are considered the most popular cavity nesting birds, and the standard birdhouse is built to suit bluebirds, while other models are smaller for wrens and chickadees, or much larger for kestrels and screech owls.
Nonetheless, other cavity nesting birds benefit in big ways by utilizing nest boxes provided for bluebirds, and this is especially true along bluebird trails – a collection of birdhouses installed along a trail that can be walked or driven to maintain and monitor the activities of cavity nesting birds. Certainly, Tree Swallows have been primary beneficiaries of these lines of birdhouses, along with Violet-green Swallows in the West, a variety of wren and chickadee species, and many others.
Whether your interest is bluebirds, or cavity nesting species in particular – there are 88 species in North America that nest in cavities, and can benefit from the addition of each nest box added to the landscape. But there are some very important basic things to keep in mind to be a nest box provider and landlord. In short, it’s not enough just to install nest boxes. This point is best described in a list of things to keep in mind before and after installing a birdhouse, or a nest box trail, based on information provided by the North American Bluebird Society. Read more HERE.
March 8, 2023
Spring Variety at
Your Feeding Stations
Spring migration can bring some of the most interesting, most exciting, most surprising, most appreciated birds to our yards. They arrive as single birds, as flocks, and in mixed flocks, but with the advancing change in weather and with increasing numbers of species beginning migration, it’s time to prepare for the variety of migrating birds. Our best bet to attract a greater variety of birds to our feeding stations is to provide variety at our feeding stations, adding to or even changing the kinds our winter foods we provide as the spring season progresses.
Read more HERE.
January 25, 2023
Varied Shorebird Feeding Strategies
We often encounter shorebirds one species at a time, but during winter many species mix together at prime feeding locations. These concentrations of sandpipers, plovers, and larger shorebirds like curlews and godwits offer birders an opportunity to view and photograph these interesting birds. We can also enjoy observing a variety of shorebirds and learning more about their varied foods and feeding strategies, along with physical adaptations, especially their bill length and shape.
Take the time to enjoy an impressive video of these birds in action while getting insights for identifying them in the field. It’s all available on a Free video from the Bird Academy at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which you can view at Shorebird Foraging Strategies | Bird Academy • The Cornell Lab (allaboutbirds.org)
This article was taken from The Birding Wire, January 25, 2023
January 20, 2023
10 Fun Facts About the
There’s more to this flying copycat THAN MEETS THE EYE
. . . OR EAR.
The Northern Mockingbird is one of North America’s most beloved mimics. The skilled singer has also become inextricable from American popular culture, providing inspiration for the fictional “Mockingjay” of the Hunger Games franchise to being a central theme in the iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. John James Audubon was a fan of the mocker as well. Here are some facts you might not have known about this American classic, which also happens to be the State Bird of Texas.
This article was taken from the National Audubon News.
January 14, 2023
Hummingbirds Hover Because
They Lost a Gene
Hummingbirds are the only bird species that can fly not only forwards, but also backwards or sideways. Their characteristic hovering flight makes that possible.
However, hovering is extremely energy demanding. In a genomic study published in the journal Science, an international team of scientists led by Prof. Michael Hiller at the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (LOEWE-TBG) in Frankfurt, Germany, has investigated the evolutionary adaptations of the metabolism that may have enabled hummingbirds’ unique flying abilities. Read the whole article HERE.
January 9, 2023
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
January is Nesting Season for
Great Horned and Barred Owls
January is the time for owls to find the perfect spot for the nesting season ahead. Learn all about owls and their nesting habits and watch a livestream of Barred Owls raising their chicks. Read more HERE.
December 14, 2022
The Surprising Health Benefits of Birdwatching
It’s no secret that spending time in nature is good for your mind. Studies show that even a stroll through a city park decreases stress, sharpens concentration and improves long-term mental health outcomes.
But birdwatching also has healing effects on the body. Read more, make a promise to yourself to be healthier in 2023, and GET OUT THERE with the birds!
September 18, 2022
Bird Migration Explorer!
National Audubon Society has just unveiled an interactive, free digital platform that combines bird distribution and migration maps with conservation data for 458 species of migratory birds. It’s called the Bird Migration Explorer, and it displays its information from hemispheric to local levels.
READ MORE and EXPERIENCE this cutting edge tool HERE.
August 17, 2022
New Youth Birding Publication
The second issue of The Fledgling, a most impressive youth-driven online publication created in coordination with the American Birding Association (ABA), is now available as a Free download. The Fledgling is produced by and designed for young birders. Article topics vary from exciting birding travel stories to bird identification tips, ways to get involved in your community, and everything in between. In addition to fascinating articles, The Fledgling’s photos and artwork from young birders are most impressive.
This online magazine is both enlightening and fun, and it showcases the amazing talent of the next generation of birders and biologists. To learn more about the young birders who produced this second issue, and to review the first issue in case you missed it, check into The Fledgling – American Birding Association (aba.org)
To download a Free printable PDF file of the new Second Issue of The Fledgling, see ThemeNcode PDF Viewer [Do not Delete] – American Birding Association (aba.org)
Live Migration Maps
As some birds are already starting their migrations, or even in the midst of their seasonal migration to a stopover area, BirdCast provides real-time maps that show the varying intensities of actual nocturnal bird migration across the Lower 48 States as detected by the US weather radar network between sunset and sunrise. BirdCast also provides regional migration predictions. In addition, an especially helpful new tool provides details about migration in your county, a very localized migration monitoring tool – Migration Dashboard.
Check in regularly to the Migration Dashboard to review local bird migration activities above your local county at Migration Dashboard – BirdCast
Read more HERE.
August 16, 2022
New Free Bluebird Book for Young Birders
Designed to make learning about bluebirds a fun and appealing adventure, especially for young people interested in birds, this new publication was produced by the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) to interest more young people in the 3 species of bluebirds found only in North America. The Free downloadable book, Get to Know Bluebirds: A Guide for Young Nature Lovers, is aimed at a youth audience, but provides a great introduction to anyone interested in learning more about bluebirds and how we can benefit these popular cavity nesting birds.
To get all the details and to download your own Free copy, refer to
Publications – North American Bluebird Society (nabluebirdsociety.org
July 14, 2022
How to Successfully Smash Your Face Against a Tree
July 13, 2022
|This year, almost 2,500 photographers from across the United States and Canada submitted nearly 10,000 photographs and videos to Audubon’s 13th annual Audubon Photography Awards. With so many exceptional shots and breathtaking birds worth sharing, we cannot wait to present the top 100 photos that nearly won over our judges. |
Scroll through these standout images that feature rare and unusual moments in the avian world, and find out the story behind each shot.
June 16, 2022
How Noise and Light Pollution Affect Animals
An article from The Atlantic details studies scientists are doing with bats in Wyoming. Read it here.
February 24, 2022
How Well Do We Really Know Cardinals?
A familiar favorite may be more mysterious than you think. New research suggests that the Northern Cardinal warrants a closer look—and perhaps a split into multiple species.
“Everybody thinks, ‘It’s a cardinal, I know what a cardinal looks like,’ ” says the study’s lead author. “But when you really start digging in you realize, ‘Oh, maybe they’re not what I thought they were.’ ”
Learn more about the case in support of a split—and get ready to rethink this iconic backyard bird.
From National Audubon: Examine the Evidence and Think About It.
January 18, 2022
November 7, 2021
Virgin Birth in Condors?
It was a real surprise a few years ago when scientists conducting routine DNA testing among captive California Condors came up with some unexpected paternity. Two birds – known by their tracking numbers as SB260 and SB517 – were not related to their presumed fathers! Apparently, they had no known fathers at all. Fully 100% of their DNA had come from their respective mothers.
This is known as parthenogenesis, a phenomenon that has been studied in invertebrates, as well as in various species of snakes (e.g., boas and pythons), lizards, sharks, rays, and some bony fish. Yes, sometimes it even occurs in birds, such as turkeys and chickens, a subject mainly studied by the poultry industry.
The condor study, led by the much-respected research group at the famous San Diego Zoo was published in late October in the Journal of Heredity.
A good summary, presented by Sarah Zhang, staff writer at The Atlantic, can be found here.
October 27, 2021
Project FeederWatch Starts November 13
Are you ready? It’s time to Join or Renew now for the 2021-22 Project FeederWatch season, which runs from November 13 through April 30. If you are a first-time FeederWatch participant you will receive the ever-helpful double-sided bird identification poster, and FeederWatch calendars will be mailed to all participants who wish to receive them. It’s time to start getting ready for the coming Project FeederWatch season by reading the online instructions, then begin counting your birds when the season starts.
For more details, click Here.
October 25, 2021
Saudi Arabia’s First October Big Day of Birding
In celebration of Global Bird Weekend and World Migratory Bird Day, on Saturday, October 9th, birdwatchers in Saudi Arabia took part in this year’s October Big Day. During the event, the global birding community tried to record the highest number of bird species possible in a single day. By the end of the day that Saturday, the Saudi Birding Team had recorded a total of 221 species, putting the Kingdom in 44th place out of the 193 countries in which birdwatchers submitted checklists to eBird, an online database of global bird observations developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Greg Askew, an Aramco employee in Saudi Arabia who gave a presentation to Bexar Audubon this summer, helped organize the event. Read the story here.
October 7, 2021
Keep Cats Safe at Home
PET SAFETY BEGINS AT HOME. October is National Animal Protection and Safety Month — the ideal time to review simple ways to keep your beloved pets safe, healthy, and happy at home. Just a few safety measures and modifications to your home, garage, and yard can head off pet accidents, avoiding unnecessary (and costly) trips to the veterinarian or hours of panic searching for a lost pet. Check out these valuable tips and the benefits of catios, including Cassie’s catio story. Various catio resources are available, including DIY catio plans by Catio Spaces. Use promo code BASLovesBirdCityTXSA and 10% will come back to us as a donation.
October 6, 2021
A Stunning Collection of Bird Portraits Explores the Nature of Beauty
Photographer Tim Flach’s new book invites us to marvel at the sheer diversity of avian species.
With their sensuous textures, striking color patterns, and whimsical highlights, birds’ beauty certainly delights us, but its real audience is birds themselves. Avian ornaments have evolved through their capacity to intrigue, entrance, inform, and attract mates. In this way, birds are agents in their own evolution.
Read and see more by evolutionary biologist Richard Prum HERE.
October 6, 2021
Fall Feeding Stations
As fall colors progress southward with the cooling temperatures of October, birds that will become winter feeder visitors are working their way south too. Re-imagine your feeding station with many goldfinches, siskins, nuthatches, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, and native sparrows on hand. Plus local birds like cardinals, chickadees, and jays are scouting where reliable food sources exist as they transition from summer insects and berries to fall seeds and suet. It’s time to transition to offer “fall and winter foods” – if you haven’t already made that move. Read more from The Birding Wire HERE.
Don’t forget to check out your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for all the feeders and food items that you and your backyard birds could want. And be sure you have native plants at your home that offer fruit and berries for our winter residents and visitors. For help with selecting appropriate plants for our area, check out the Native Plant Society Chapter nearest you and the National Audubon Society Plants for Birds website.
October 4, 2021
Female Hummingbirds That Look Like Males
To Avoid Harassment
One of the most distinctive features of many birds is their colorful plumage, an attribute that scientists have frequently associated with sexual selection because it is often observed in reproductive adults: the flashier their feathers, the more likely the birds are to find a potential mate. However, after looking at over 400 hummingbirds in Panama, Jay Falk, a former pre-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, suggested another possible explanation.
“In the case of hummingbirds, specifically the white-necked Jacobin that I study, males are colorful and most females are comparatively dull,” Falk said. “But if you look closely, it turns out that about one-third of female Jacobins look like males.” Oddly enough, all juvenile females exhibit this flashy plumage. Yet, as they become sexually mature, most of them lose it. So, if mating is not a priority for these young females, why would all of them exhibit the colorful feathers? Read the entire article HERE.
October 1, 2021
Why Most Birds Look Their Best in Fall Plumage
If I asked you to name the season when birds are looking their best, I suspect you would answer “spring.” That’s when most species are in their most showy and colorful breeding plumage. But I would like to make a case for fall as the season when birds are actually at their most beautiful.
Spring birds certainly capture the headlines with their bright colors and contrasting patterns. Birds like buntings, warblers, and tanagers have just returned to their nesting territories and use their brilliant color to show off for mates and rivals. The beauty of fall birds is more subtle – delicate shadings of gray and buff, crisp pale edges, all feathers new and unblemished. Read the rest of the article here.