What to watch for in December: Grackles and hawks
Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis
Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at travisaudubon.org or by calling 512-300-BIRD. Travis Audubon is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @TravisAudubon and give us a like at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon.
Great-tailed Grackle photo by Linda Tanner via Creative Commons
If you think there are more grackles than usual on the power lines and in parking lots, you’re right. This time of year brings more of the shiny black Great-tailed Grackles, and they are massing by the thousands on wires and all around your favorite grocery store parking lot. Male Great-tailed Grackles are large and a beautiful iridescent purplish-black, with long tails.
Female Great-tailed grackle photo by Mike Baird via Creative Commons
The females are also large and lanky but are dark brown on top and a lighter olive-brown underneath. They’re the largest of the various dark-colored “parking lot birds” — others include European Starlings and the smaller Common Grackles.
The Great-tailed Grackles may be the bird everyone loves to hate, but they love the urban habitat we’ve created. It’s hard to believe that in 1900, southernmost Texas had only a few of the birds. They arrived in Austin in 1915 and are here to stay.
Cooper’s Hawk by Onafly via Creative Commons
With the large flocks of grackles come even larger birds looking for, yes, a grackle lunch: Cooper’s Hawks. They like to frequent the same parking lots in search of easy pickings.
Cooper’s Hawks also like to crash backyard bird feeder parties. If your feeder is aflutter with activity, and all of a sudden the birds vanish, then look for a Cooper’s on the prowl. They are designed to weave in and out among trees and shrubs to ambush and capture smaller birds.
Cooper’s Hawks are medium-size hawks — smaller than the Red-tailed Hawks seen now on light poles along MoPac Boulevard — and have broad wings and a long tail. They’re blue-gray on their backs and have fine reddish bars on their chests. Their tails have light and dark banding, noticeable from above and below.
If a Cooper’s Hawk does start haunting your yard and eating smaller birds, you can remove the feeders for a few days and he will move on.
Monthly Travis Audubon meeting: Potluck and silent auction
Join us on Sunday, December 8, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. for our annual Holiday Potluck and Silent Auction in lieu of the December monthly meeting. No registration required! Join us at the First Unitarian Universalist Church on Grover Avenue (click for map and directions) to enjoy good food and fellowship with your fellow Travis Audubon members, and bid on a variety of fabulous auction items in support of Travis Audubon.
Field Trips — Beginners welcome. Check the Travis Audubon website for details.
Lake Pflugerville Ducks and Other Waterfowl
Saturday, December 7, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Turtle Rock Ranch (private property in the Hill Country)
Saturday, December 7, 6:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Beginner’s Bird Walk at Lake Creek Trail
Saturday, December 7, 8 to 10 a.m.
Bastrop and Buescher State Parks led by Robert Reeves
Saturday, December 7, 8 to 10 a.m.
Laguna Gloria with Sam Fason
Saturday, December 7, 8:45 to 10:45 a.m.
More Lake Pflugerville Ducks and Other Waterfowl
Saturday, December 10, 4 to 7 p.m.
Austin Christmas Bird Count 2013 !!!!
Saturday, December 14, all day
Sunday, December 15, 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.
Balcones Christmas Bird Count
Monday, December 16, all day
Balcones Preserve/Water Quality Lands Friday Birding Hikes — FM 620 near FM 2222
Friday, December 20, 8 to 11 a.m.
Compiled by Travis Audubon volunteers Jane Tillman and Raeanne Martinez