My Favorite Backyard Birds

By Kathryn Courtney
We are very lucky to live here on the gulf coast. Sometimes it has it’s ups and downs as we found out last year but for growing things and watching wildlife you can’t beat it. We live in a spring and fall migration path for thousands of birds. Our spring migration is in April and May and includes many colorful birds that we don’t usually see. Buntings, Tanagers and Warblers can come through in Spring. These birds are just passing through and don’t stay long.
Our fall migration is a different story.It lasts from August through November and some of these birds stay year round. We see many water and shore birds come through at this time of year. Some are here even later in the winter. It is the fall birds that need our help with food, water, and shelter as they come through.  We also have many birds that make their homes here year round. Here are some of my favorite yard birds and some suggestions on what to do to get them to stay.
Cardinals – These are large crested finch type birds. The males are bright red andfemales are a mixture of brown, tan and red. Cardinals forage in trees, shrubs, and on the ground and have a varied diet of seeds, fruits, snails and insects. Cardinals build their nests in trees and large shrubs. Their nests are built of twigs, leaves, grass and other found natural materials and are usually no higher than 5 feet off the ground. Dense shrubs are best for their nesting. Make sure you have plenty of food and materials for nest building in your yard. Cardinals love sunflower seeds in winter when food is scarce. They have a wonderful high pitched little cheep that lets you know they are around.
Sparrows – There are many types of sparrows in our area. I know most people think ofthem as a nuisance but to me they are the most entertaining birds we have. Sparrows are mostly gray, brown and black in different combinations. I have seen these birds described as gregarious and I think this fits them perfectly. They nest and feed in groups and are very social. They eat seeds, grains and larvae of many insect species.They can nest almost anywhere including eaves, masonry, ivy and bushes. Sparrows prefer smaller seeds in winter when food is scarce. Groups of sparrows in your backyard are a joyful sight.
Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse – These birds are usually winter visitors. Chickadees are gray and white with a prominent black cap on the top of their heads. Chickadees eat insects, spiders, seeds and fruit and are very efficient foragers.These birds are cavity nesters and will use a bird house if proper nesting places can’t be found. If you do have chickadees in your bird house, keep your distance. They will hiss and attack intruders to their nest. In winter feed them smaller seed in a hanging feeder. The tufted titmouse is a small bird with gray on the upper parts and pale gray and rust brown on bottom and flanks. They are distinguished by a gray cap and crest like a cardinals. They have the same nesting habits as the chickadee and eat berries, acorns, seeds, insects and snails. They also prefer smaller seeds from a hanging feeder in winter. Titmice love to eat hanging upside down.
Tufted Titmouse
Mockingbirds – You can’t write a favorite bird article without including the state birdof Texas. Mockingbirds are gray on top with a paler gray underneath. They have a thin black eye mask and black and white wings. Mockingbirds eat insects, fruit, snails and small vertebrates. They can forage in trees, shrubs and on the ground. They can be aggressive. I have seen them attack both of my cats. One cat has a bald spot on its head from mockingbirds.They have large cup like nests built in low trees consisting of twigs and grass.  In the winter leave out dried fruit, apples or pomegranates on a platform feeder for the mockingbirds.
Doves – We have several types of doves here. Some of the most common are morning doves, Inca doves, and Eurasian collared doves. We sometimes see white wing doves passing through. Doves are ground feeding birds and primarily eat seeds. You can try platform feeders for doves, but in my experience they just throw the seed on the ground and eat from there. Doves range in color from soft browns to grays. The collared dove has a black ring around it’s neck. Doves will nest in almost anything. Trees, shrubs, buildings, flower pots, and hanging baskets are all nesting places for doves. I’ve had Inca doves nesting in a hanging planter for several years. Their soft cooing sound is so peaceful and soothing.
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Hummingbirds – Hummingbirds begin their migration through our area beginning in August. Some hummingbirds will over winter in our area. They sip nectar from many different kinds of plants. Plants with tubular shaped red flowers are a favorite along with pentas, zinnias, and many others. We have three types of hummingbirds in our area. Ruby- throated, Rufous and Black-chinned. I seem to have mostly Ruby-throated in my yard. To keep hummingbirds around make sure you have plenty of nectar flowers or a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds also need thin branches to perch on and shallow water to drink. Pound for pound hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive species on earth. This can be witnessed by the hummingbird wars at your feeders
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird