Texas Living

How to Become a Backyard Birdwatcher in Texas

By Peter Simek 10.30.20

Texas sits on one of North America’s great transcontinental flyways. Over the course of the year, millions of birds crisscross over Texas on their way to and from Canada, Mexico, and the rest of U.S. That geographical position has made some areas of Texas famous for attracting rare and beautiful species, which has transformed sites like the Bolivar Peninsula and King Ranch into birding pilgrimage sites.

The migrating flyways also mean you don’t have to travel far to find incredible birds. Everyone’s backyard could easily serve as its own little bird sanctuary. To become a backyard birdwatcher in Texas, all you need is a little patience and a good guide. Here are our tips for getting started.

Hit the Books

Becoming a keen birdwatcher isn’t difficult, but like any hobby, it does require a little study. Begin by purchasing a good guide, which will help you learn to identify and classify birds in the wild—or in your backyard.

Classics like National Geographic’s “Field Guide to the Birds of North America” and the “Peterson Field Guide”series organize different species into subgroupings, which will help you recognize a few distinguishing features so you can quickly identify species.

The National Audubon Society suggests getting excited about the hobby before diving into the nitty-gritty details. Read the book “The Big Year” — or check out the film adaptation — for some inspiration on the subdued obsession that is birdwatching.

Get the Gear

Birdwatching in Texas doesn’t require much more equipment than a keen set of eyes and a reservoir of curiosity, but there are a few tools that can aid in your hunt.

A solid set of binoculars is helpful for being able to identify particular color differentials in plumage, which can help you determine the species and sex of any bird you spot. Your binoculars don’t have to be massive or expensive — even a simple pair will make it easier to spot your feathery friends.

Keep your guidebook and binoculars near a back window so you’ll be ready whenever a new creature visits your neighborhood.

Build a Bird-Friendly Backyard

You’ll have a lot more success spotting birds in your backyard if it’s a bird-friendly environment. Having a variety of trees, grasses, and shrubs will increase the probability that birds that prefer different ecologies will stop by, or even nest, in your yard. Many species of birds, from songbirds to hummingbirds, are attracted to gardens with these common flowers:

  • Milkweed
  • Sunflowers
  • Cornflowers
  • Black-eyed Susans
  • Daisies
  • Trumpet honeysuckle

Birdhouses, bird baths, and bird feeders are great ways to make your yard a gathering spot for visiting birds. Once your backyard has food, shelter, and water, early in the mornings and around dusk are your best chance for spotting some majestic winged creatures.

Here are some fun DIY bird feeder ideas to get you started.

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