We Love Birds Bulletin

Posts from Bexar Audubon Society about
birding and conservation articles, programs, webinars, classes,
and other newsworthy items for BAS members.

February 23, 2024

Who Likes What: The Favorite Birdseed of Feeder Regulars and Rarities

Here are the top three seed choices for a variety of species, per a scientific observational study of 1.2 million bird feeder visits.

From 2005 to 2008, the Wild Bird Feeding Institute contracted Millikin University’s David Horn to conduct the most comprehensive scientific study of avian food and feeder preferences. Project Wildbird tracked 1.2 million feeder visits across North America to gauge interest in 10 common bird food ingredients. These were the top choices for a variety of feeder regulars and rarities. READ MORE AND SEE THE CHART HERE.

February 14, 2024

February is National Bird Feeding Month

Bird feeding has become one of the most popular hobbies among Americans, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey results – more than 59 million people feed birds to be more precise! Feeding birds instills an interest in birds and birding that grows as people learn about and become more familiar with different birds in their area. Now, during February, people who live in cold areas with limited natural resources are encouraged to provide sources of nutritious, energy-rich food, fresh water, to go along with your landscaping that shelters wild birds – and inspire new people to join the effort.

READ MORE HERE.

November 18, 2023

Why Vultures Might Just Be the Smartest Birds Above the Block

Vultures are widely reviled for their carrion-eating ways. But an evolutionary history of scavenging has forged a creative, cunning and wide-ranging mind.

To the general public, vultures may seem vaguely repulsive characters that skulk in bare trees waiting for something to die. But to researchers who study any of the 23 species in today’s vulture consortium, the birds brim with intelligence born of their exceptional vocation.

Many animals feed on carrion opportunistically, when the occasion arises. Alone among vertebrates, vultures have taken scavenging professional. In lieu of hunting live prey, they seek out dead meat. That may seem easy — after all, everything dies. But because the time and place of an animal’s death are rarely predictable, the vulture’s reliance on carrion has forged, along with a flexible neck for poking into corpses and a featherless head for easy self-cleaning, a creative, cunning and wide-ranging mind.

Read this entire fascinating article from the New York Times HERE, and you wonder why these supremely adapted birds just don’t get the respect they deserve.

Puking bird is named
New Zealand’s ‘Bird of the Century’ after campaign by John Oliver

A pūteketeke (Australasian Crested Grebe) and its chick at Lake Ellesmere, south of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Peter Foulds / AP

 Comedian John Oliver has succeeded in his campaign to have what he describes as a weird, puking bird with a colorful mullet win New Zealand’s Bird of the Century contest.

He managed to elbow out the iconic national bird, the kiwi.

Conservation group Forest and Bird announced Wednesday that Oliver’s favored water bird, the pūteketeke, had won after Oliver went all-out in a humorous campaign for the bird on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.” The North Island brown kiwi came in second.

Vote checkers in New Zealand were so overwhelmed by Oliver’s foreign interference they had to postpone naming the winning bird for two days.

Read more about Oliver’s campaign to champion the bird and see Oliver dressed as the bird on Jimmy Fallon’s late night television show HERE.

November 2, 2023

American Ornithological Society Will Change the English Names of Bird Species Named After People

AOS is a diverse, global network of empowered professionals, working together to advance the scientific study and conservation of birds. As the world’s largest international ornithological society, AOS is more relevant today than ever, and we’re dedicated to supporting the scientists doing this critical work—for the sake of birds, humanity, and the planet.

 Today the American Ornithological Society (AOS) announced that in an effort to address past wrongs and engage far more people in the enjoyment, protection, and study of birds, it will change all English bird names currently named after people within its geographic jurisdiction. The AOS will also change the process by which English names are selected for bird species. The effort will begin in 2024 and will focus initially on 70–80 bird species that occur primarily within the U.S. and Canada.

To read the whole article, click Here.

October 30, 2023

Avian Flu and the California Condor

This past spring, avian influenza had killed 21 California Condors of the flock that soars over Arizona and Utah (and makes up about half of the total population of Condors, which was 561 strong at the beginning of the year). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked with the FDA to acquire and test a vaccine against bird flu. Twenty-one Condors in captivity were fully vaccinated as of August 25, and 60 percent showed antibodies against the disease, which should offer some protection. The FWS is working on a plan to protect all Condors (even those in the wild) before spring migration starts.

Why this matters: In Europe a highly pathogenic strain of avian flu became epidemic in numerous species of wild birds by 2021, and the strain reached the U.S. the following year. By now that strain has likely killed millions of wild birds, experts estimate. Condors are particularly vulnerable to avian influenza because they interact with each other quite a bit–living in extended family groups and kin networks.

What the experts say: “I think it’s a lot easier to combat the avian flu issue because it’s much more straightforward,” says Jonathan Hall, a wildlife ecologist at Eastern Michigan University. “The ongoing threats that condors face, really primarily because of the way that the environment has changed over the last 500 years on this continent due to colonization—that’s a much harder issue to address.”

September 2, 2023

When It’s Okay
(or Not)
to Feed Birds

Providing food—for photography or simple enjoyment—can be a thorny issue. For guidance, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Is this species at risk?
  2. Is the food appropriate and safely provided?
  3. 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

Click on link below for a larger version of this flyer.

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.

How quickly can you ascertain the difference between a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret? Birding appears to help improve a number of brain functions, including memory and learning.

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

It’s not uncommon to find young birds away from their nests during spring and summer. But should you help them? That depends.

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

Eastern Bluebird boxes provide nesting sites for many species.
Be a responsible bird landlord by providing safe accommodation for cavity nesters.

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

Orioles, like this Baltimore Oriole, will begin arriving in southern states by mid-April, although it may be 3 weeks later before they reach some northern states. Grape jelly and sliced oranges are oriole staples during spring and summer, and some orioles feed on sugar-water nectar too.

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

The varied feeding strategies allow shorebirds ranging from tiny sandpipers and plovers to this large Long-billed Curlew to share the same shorelines (photo by Paul Konrad).

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
Northern Mockingbird

The Texas NOMO enjoys the berries from the Texas Native female Possum Haw.
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

Hovering flight allows hummingbirds to feed more easily from the nectar of flowers. Who knew that a lost gene could result in such an amazing adaptation?
No one, until now.

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

Barred Owls will use nests built by other birds or nesting boxes provided by humans.

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

Spending time outdoors with a pair of binoculars is good for your body and soul.

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

Meet Audubon’s
Bird Migration Explorer!

Migration Explorer visualizes the incredible journeys of migratory birds, how they connect us across the hemisphere, and the widespread challenges they face throughout their full annual cycle.

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 new Second Issue of The Fledgling is available as a Free download.

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
on BirdCast

Northern Flickers are among the early migrants to watch for in coming weeks (photo by Doug Gochfield).

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

A new study refutes the widespread idea that woodpeckers have shock-absorbing heads. Read the article in The Atlantic by Ed Yong.


July 13, 2022

Audubon Photography Awards: The Top 100 Aims to Inspire
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

Visit Environment for the Americas website for more information.

November 7, 2021

Virgin Birth in Condors?

close-up photo of california condor
After 30 years of breeding condors, a secret comes out. Justin Hofman / Alamy

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

5 Years of Project FeederWatch - The Zen Birdfeeder
Project FeederWatch provides valuable information about movements of wintering birds that may be visiting your feeders this winter (photo by Kerrie Wilcox).

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.
Both sexes of the Inca Tern, left, sport a red beak and fleshy bright yellow gape patches—and a snowy white mustache that flutters in the wind as they fly. The King Vulture is a largely silent bird with an extremely colorful head that it bows during courtship. 

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

Wild Birds Unlimited - Nature Shop

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

During his experiment, evolutionary biologist Jay Falk found out that colorful female Jacobin Hummingbirds had lower chances of being chased away by other hummingbirds when they accessed feeders than their drab counterparts.
Credit: Jorge Alemán, STRI.
Deceiving Plumage
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
A FAMILIAR BIRD TRANSFORMED: A female American Robin in worn plumage (left, typical of July) and fresh plumage (right, typical of October).

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.