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Feather-friendly Texas

More than 600 bird species recorded in the Lone Star State

Created date

February 20th, 2014
woman bird-watching

Richard Taylor’s lifelong interest in birding began when he was a teenage Boy Scout trying to earn his Bird Study Merit Badge in Memphis, Tenn.

“I was fortunate to study under Ben B. Coffey, an avid birder who encouraged my interest in the sport,” says Richard. “I’ve been watching birds ever since.”

Richard is not alone. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are more than 51 million birders in America, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing hobbies.

“Bird-watching can be done at any age, anywhere in the country,” says Richard. “And other than a good pair of binoculars, it doesn’t require special equipment. It’s easy to see why it’s catching on.”

Calling all birders

Richard sold his hardwood flooring company in 1989 and moved to Galveston to invest more time in bird-watching. In 2008, he moved once more, this time to Eagle’s Trace, an Erickson Living community in West Houston.

“I wouldn’t want to be any other place,” says Richard, who founded the community’s bird-watching club shortly after he moved in. “I have everything I need right here.”

The bird-watching club, now in its sixth year, maintains a list of the types of birds spotted at the West Houston community. 

“So far, we’ve seen 83 or 84 different species of birds,” says Richard. “Each year, our bird-watching club participates in the Christmas Bird Count. In December 2013, we counted 32 different species.”

The Christmas Bird Count, organized by the National Audubon Society, is an all-volunteer effort to take a snapshot of the status and distribution of bird populations across North America. The count takes place over several weeks. In 2013, it ran from December 14 through January 5. The Houston Audubon Society assigns a day to each volunteer group, and Eagle’s Trace conducted their count on December 29.

Frequent fliers

Texas, particularly along the Gulf Coast, is a perennial favorite with birders who visit avian hot spots like High Island, the Bolivar Peninsula, Aransas National Wildlife Rescue, and Matagorda Island.

“We’re fortunate to live near many of these places,” says Joan Golding, current chairman of the bird-watching club. “Since I’ve joined the club, we’ve visited Brazos Bend State Park, High Island, Galveston, and the Katy Prairie Conservancy.”

Unlike Richard, Joan is relatively new to bird-watching. She took up the hobby after she moved to Eagle’s Trace in 2008.

“I like living in a big city, but the spaciousness of Eagle’s Trace appealed to me,” she says. “It has the lake and plenty of trees, and now that I’ve taking up birding, I’m even happier to be here.”

Always more to learn

Joan says she’s seen egrets, swallows, purple martins, osprey, and whistling ducks around the community’s Lake Aquila.

“Birds are remarkable creatures,” says Joan. “The more you learn about them, the more interesting they become. I recently found out that whistling ducks roost in trees, which I find fascinating.”

The bird-watching club meets monthly and averages 20 to 30 members at each meeting.

“We cover topics ranging from the feeding habits of birds to their migration patterns,” says Joan. “Then we observe what we’ve learned, either at Eagle’s Trace or on a bird-watching trip organized by the community. When it comes to birds, there’s always something to see.”