The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center provides a unique setting for observing birds in an urban environment. The site encompasses a diverse array of habitats including a mixed pine/hardwood forest, ponds, Buffalo Bayou and other drainages, a small meadow, and other open areas.
A checklist is available at our Information Desk or download a pdf file. It is the result of actual observations since 1979 and includes 167 species in 40 families. The Arboretum hosts the website for the annual Buffalo Bayou Christmas Bird Count. Click here for more information on the Buffalo Bayou Count Circle and summaries from previous counts.
Bird counts will be posted on ebird.
** For information on the annual Buffalo Bayou Christmas Bird Count, click here
See who visited the hummingbird feeder in January!
Below are some of the more common birds seen at the Arboretum.
Blue Jays are medium sized woodland birds with brilliant blue and white coloration. Males and females are externally identical and both assist in rearing of young. Like their larger cousins the crow, Jays are good mimics oftentimes heard imitating hawks. Blue jays are omnivores; they feed on seeds, nuts, and berries, insects, small mammals, amphibians, fish, and even the eggs and young of other birds round out the blue jay’s diet.
Call: A loud Jay! Jay! Jay!
Yellow Crowned Night Heron
The Nature Center is home to five permanent wetlands. These wetlands are sometimes frequented by herons which use them as hunting grounds for fish, amphibians, small snakes, insects, and crayfish. One of the most commonly seen water birds in is the Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Standing over two feet high with long, yellowish legs, gray body and a black head marked by white cheeks and white crown, this heron is often easy to spot when hunting one of our wetland. It specializes in hunting crayfish and small insects.
Call: A harsh WOC, particularly when startled.
Chickadees are small woodland birds that are often found flocking with their close relatives the Tufted Titmouse. These birds are distinguished by their back ‘cap’ and ‘bib’ field marks and their often excitable behavior. They feed on mostly on insects, spiders, seeds, and berries.
Call: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee or fee-bee fee-bay.
The Tufted Titmouse has a gray crest, blackish forehead, and rusty flanks. They live in deciduous woodlands and suburbs eating caterpillars, wasps, acorns, and berries. Their call is a clear whistle “peter, peter, peter”.
The Carolina Wren is a small, highly agile brown bird that frequents thickets and brush piles. This song bird can be identified by its prominent white eye stripe and its tail which is often held high while perching. A Wren’s diet is varied and consists of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, moths, crickets, bees, and ants which it finds on trees and in leaf litter.
Call: A clear, melodious teakettle teakettle teakettle.
The State Bird of Texas, the Mockingbird is at home near the edges of woodlands. This bird’s medium build and mostly gray body provide good camouflage in this habitat. It flashes bright white wing patches while in flight. Mockingbirds eat many different types of fruit including grapes, elderberries, blackberries, mulberries and even poison ivy berries.
The unmistakable Cardinal is among the most colorful and beautiful birds in our area. The male has a bright red body/crest and black ‘face mask’ while the female colors are drabber. A Cardinal’s thick beak is used to crack tough seeds.
Call: A clear, loud cheer, cheer, cheer or purty purty purty.
The most majestic of the Nature Center’s birds is the Pileated Woodpecker. This spectacular woodpecker reaches the size of a crow (it is the largest woodpecker in North America) and sports a bright red crest and blackish body. If the image of the Pileated Woodpecker looks familiar it may be because the Pileated Woodpecker served as the model for ‘Woody Woodpecker’. Pileated Woodpeckers feed mostly on carpenter ants and termites which live under the bark of large trees and supplement this diet throughout the year with grapes and nuts. Like many other woodpeckers this bird will proclaim its territory by drumming. The drumming is more frequent by unpaired males and is distinctive among woodpeckers as it softens toward the end.
Call: A loud wuck note or series of notes given often during flight.
Perhaps the most intelligent of our birds, the resourceful and highly social Crow is often heard calling from tree tops or found roosting in large groups. This is a large bird (up to 19″ long) with solid black coloration. They are opportunists that eat small animals, carrion, fruit, eggs, garbage, or just about anything else that is edible.
Call: Crows use a variety of calls for specific situations. It has been estimated that they may have more than 30 distinct calls! The most common of these calls is the familiar and loud CAW.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is a fierce nighttime hunter that preys upon a variety of mammals including skunks, rabbits, and mice. It is armed with powerful claws (talons), excellent night vision, enhanced hearing capabilities, and special feathers which allow this predator to silently attack prey. To learn more about this fascinating bird please visit the Great Horned Owl display in the Nature Center’s main hallway.
Call: Great Horned Owls can be distinguished from other large owls in this area by their classic Hoo-Hoo Hooooo call. These calls can often be heard here at the Nature Center during winter which is when they are breeding.