Golden-fronted Woodpecker © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Top 10 List of Texas Birds

There are plenty of lovely avian contenders for my top 10 list.

Whoever came up with the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” was quite a diplomat, but I had to throw diplomacy out the window when selecting my 10 favorite and most beautiful birds. Just think, Texas has nearly 640 species, and only 10 of them, or less than 2 percent, could make the cut!

As a photographer and lover of nature, I enjoy all birds. If diplomacy was my only consideration, I’d give the honor to all Texas birds and call it a 639-way tie.

Roseate spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roseate spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, there are lots of lovely avian contenders for the most beautiful list. The “beauty” of it is that every year we winter in Texas, I see things differently and have new favorites. After all, Mother Nature has provided us with many stunning treats just waiting to be observed and enjoyed.

Without further ado, here are my 10 favorite—in my opinion—most beautiful birds in Texas.

Roseate spoonbill: No problem or hesitation about picking the roseate spoonbill first. One of the most striking birds found in North America, they demand attention and they get it. A large wading bird with pink plumage, the roseate spoonbill can often be seen in small groups where they swing their spatula-like bills to and fro searching shallow water for crustaceans.

Green jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green jay: Unmistakably tropical, the brilliantly-colored green jay ranges south all the way to Ecuador, but enters the U.S. only in southern-most Texas, where it is fairly common in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Green jays are colorful birds with a pale green back and underside, a black chest, a blue and black head and face, and yellow sides on their tail.

Great kiskadee: The great kiskadee is a treat for visitors to southern Texas—and the birds won’t keep you waiting. Kiskadees are an eye-catching mix of black, white, yellow, and reddish-brown. The black head is set off by a bold white eyebrow and throat; the underparts are yellow. These are loud, boisterous  birds that quickly make their presence known.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yellow-crowned Night Heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yellow-crowned night heron: When it comes to patience, no bird can outdo the yellow-crowned night heron. The yellow-crowned night heron is a short, stocky wading bird about 24 inches in length with a wingspan of a little under four feet. It has long yellow to orange legs, red eyes, a black bill, and a short neck. It has a slate gray body, a black head with a white streak on the side of its face and a yellowish-white crown.

Black-bellied whistling duck: The black-bellied whistling duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. Also called a Mexican tree duck, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks in yards, ponds, resacas and, of course, in trees. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call.

Black-bellied whistling duck © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black-bellied whistling duck © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tricolored heron: The tri-colored heron is a medium-size wading bird named for its three main colors: bluish-gray, purple, and white. More active than the larger herons this bird does not patiently stand and wait when feeding. It walks through shallow water in a jerky fashion, crouching and darting as it moves along. It lunges, then shoots its bill into the water to catch a fish or an aquatic insect.

Tricolored heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tricolored heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Altamira oriole: The Altamira oriole is a bird of Mexico and Central America whose range just reaches into southern Texas. The largest oriole occurring in the U. S., it makes the longest nest of any North American bird: its woven basket-like nest can reach 25.5 inches in length. The Altamira has black back, wings, bib, lores, bill; orange head, nape, and underparts.

Golden-fronted woodpecker: A stripe-backed woodpecker of eastern Mexico and northern Central America, the golden-fronted woodpecker reaches the U. S. only in the brushlands and woodlands of Texas and southwest Oklahoma. Very noisy and conspicuous, the golden-fronted has barred black and white back and upperwings, the rump is white, and the tail is usually black.

Crested caracara: Related to the typical falcons, but very different in shape and habits, the Crested caracara reaches the U. S. only in Texas and Florida. A large, long-legged raptor, the crested caracara has a black cap with short crest at back, pale sides of back and neck, bare red skin on face, black body, white tail with wide black tip, white patches at ends of dark wings, and faint barring on upper back and breast.

Crested caracara © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crested caracara © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reddish egret: A conspicuously long-legged, long-necked heron of shallow salt water, the reddish egret is a very active forager. Often draws attention by its feeding behavior: running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in air, raising one or both wings, and abruptly stabbing at fish.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

—Chinese Proverb

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