Spring migration in southern Texas is something that every birder should experience at least once during his or her life. Even on slow days, there are plenty of colorful birds to see and when the birds are really coming through, the numbers in terms of both species and individuals are simply spectacular.
April migration is just kicking into gear but the parade of gorgeous breeding-plumaged warblers, buntings, orioles and other small birds has definitely started. Most of the migrants at this time are birds that breed in the warmer climates of the southern states. One such species is one of the most stunning birds in North America, the Painted Bunting.
It’s hard to believe that a bird can have so many colors! These are fairly common migrants in early spring and breed in many parts of Texas.
The Indigo Bunting also migrates through southern Texas and passes through in large numbers. This is a common species of forest edge in many parts of eastern North America and shows stunning, vibrant blue plumage when seen in the right light. At other times, the male can appear to have black plumage.
Whats not to like about a shining blue-colored bird?
Several of our first warblers of the year are also passing through south Texas right now. Yellow seems to be a common theme in their plumage.
The Hooded Warbler is a stunning natural portrait of yellow, black, olive, and a bit of white.
The Kentucky Warbler shares the same colors as the Hooded and lives in many of the same southern woods but has a different pattern on its face.
The Yellow-throated Warbler likes to creep along the branches of Sycamores and Live Oaks and is a common sight in the south.
Another warbler migrating through Texas at this time might not even be a warbler at all. The Yellow-breasted Chat is rather hefty for a warbler, sings at night, and sounds more like a mockingbird than the other warblers.
Not all warblers are so colorful either. One of the most uncommon and enigmatic wood-warbler species in North America is the Swainson’s Warbler.
Looking more like a vireo or thrush than other wood-warblers, this odd species is a reclusive inhabitant of canebrakes and thick second growth in the deep south.
The White-eyed Vireo isn’t as colorful as most of the warblers either but has a spunky appearance that is matched by its feisty song.
Another common migrant with a feisty song is the Orchard Oriole.
Orchard Orioles might not be as brightly colored as Hooded, Baltimore, or Altamira Orioles, but they still sport beautiful chestnut and black plumage.
Since millions of birds are migrating through southern Texas, it’s time to head back into the field!