By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
There are many different levels of bird watching from the casual observer to professionals whose goal is to see as many of the 8,850 species as possible. In North American there are approximately 800 species. Some people use nothing more than the naked eye to observe and others spend thousands of dollars on binoculars, telescopes, cameras, video and audio equipment, tripods and field guides. “Birding”, as it’s sometimes called, is also a competitive event and there are both national and international organizations.
Some of the best bird watching, perhaps in the world, is in the Houston area. Approximately 570 types of birds either call this area home and are permanent residents or are migratory and just pass through on their way to some other destination.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource for anyone interested in birds. If you ever have a problem identifying a bird, their free Merlin Bird ID app is a must-have. According to Cornell, “If you can snap a bird photo with your phone—or even take a photo of another photo—chances are Merlin can help you ID it.”
Birds face the same threat as almost all other wild animals and that is habitat loss. Trees, brush and grasslands are being destroyed to make way for roads and buildings. The best way to help our feathered friends is to replace some of what has been lost. Plant trees and shrubs using native plants, minimize pesticide use, set up nest boxes, provide water and keep your cats indoors. Leave some dying and/or dead trees on your property. Many species depend on cavities in these trees for nest sites. Next to habitat loss, the next highest cause of bird deaths is collisions with windows. Covering windows with screening or applying decals or tape to windows can help significantly. Make sure to check the web for instructions on how to apply these safeguards.
TWRC Wildlife Center is gearing up for another busy spring. If you’d like to help us feed and care for orphaned baby birds, details will be available soon on our website at www.twrcwildlifecenter.org or you can call 713-468-TWRC for more details.