What kinds of birds can you find in Austin, Texas?
Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown Austin and the surrounding areas. Many types of birds can adapt to the presence of humans, even building nests and raising their babies in close proximity.
In addition, there are other parks and green spaces that offer hiding spaces for shy birds.
Below, you will learn the TEN most common birds that are found around Austin!
#1. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
- Gray body and yellow legs. Large red eyes.
- Black face with white cheeks and a thick black bill.
- As the name suggests, a yellowish-white crown with long white plumes.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Range Map
This heron species looks for areas with shallow water to live in, such as wooded swamps and marshes. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons can be found near fresh water, where crayfish make up most of their diet.
They are much more comfortable living near humans than other herons and will even nest in wooded neighborhoods or on rooftops. These birds in Austin eat and hunt at any time of day.
Upon being disturbed, you will hear a harsh “quawk,” which will probably be repeated a few times.
#2. Great-tailed Grackle
- Quiscalus mexicanus
- These blackbirds are fairly large, slender, and have long legs,
- Males are iridescent and completely black. Look for their bright yellow eyes and long V-shaped tail.
- Females are about half the size of males. Their upperparts are dark brown, while below, they feature paler brown plumage.
Great-tailed Grackles are brash birds in Austin that are often found in large flocks. It’s common to see them living near people, such as at parks, farms, landfills, or neighborhood backyards. Naturally, they live in open forests, marshes, and chaparral.
Their range has spread over the past century because of their fondness for agricultural areas and urban areas. In fact, they are one of the fastest-expanding species in North America!
Great-tailed Grackle Range Map
Interestingly, it’s common for “sex-biased” populations of Great-tailed Grackles to occur where female birds greatly outnumber males. This happens for two reasons.
- #1. Females have a higher survival rate in the nest since they are smaller and require less food.
- #2. On average, females live longer than males.
Because of their wide array of vocalizations, it’s hard to describe the sounds that these blackbirds make! Descriptions of their whistles, squeals, and rattles include everything from “sweet, tinkling notes” to “rusty gate hinges.” Regardless, Great-tailed Grackles can sure make a lot of loud noises, especially when they gather in enormous flocks numbering in the tens of thousands!
#3: Black-chinned Hummingbird
How To Identify:
- Males: A medium-sized hummingbird with a metallic green body with a white breast and greenish flanks. Their head appears black overall, but their crown is actually very dark green, and their lower throat is iridescent violet. You typically can’t see the strip of purple unless the light hits it just right. Look for a white spot behind their eyes.
- Females: Have a greenish-grey cap on their heads and a green back. There is a white spot behind their eyes, similar to the males. Females have a dark-spotted grey throat and a white breast.
I will never forget the first time I saw this hummingbird species. During an early morning walk, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird started feeding on the wildflowers in front of me! I still remember the purple, vibrant throat shining in the early morning sun. 🙂
Black-chinned Hummingbird Range Map
Black-chinned Hummingbirds breed in Austin during the summer months. In winter, they migrate to the west coast of Mexico. This species is one of the most adaptable of all hummingbird species and is found in various habitats. Look for them in places such as mountain and alpine meadows, canyons with thickets, orchards, urban areas, and recently disturbed areas.
You will probably hear a Black-chinned Hummingbird flying if they are around. This is because their wings make a distinctive hum, which sounds similar to a bee. These birds also commonly make different high-pitched ticks and chips.
- Their eggs are about the size of a coffee bean!
- When the weather is cold, and lots of energy is needed to stay warm, these birds can drink up to THREE times their body weight in nectar. On the flip side, when insects are plentiful, they can survive without any nectar for stretches of time.
#4. Northern Cardinal
- Cardinalis cardinalis
- Males are a stunning red with a black mask and throat.
- Females are pale orangish-brown with red on their crest, wings, and tail.
- Both sexes have a crest on their head and a short, thick bill that is perfect for cracking seeds.
Northern Cardinal Range Map
Without a doubt, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular birds at backyard feeding stations. They are not only beautifully colored, but they are incredibly common in Austin!
In this video, you can see both male and female cardinals. If you look closely, you can even see a juvenile!
Here are my three favorite ways to attract cardinals to my backyard:
- Supply their favorite foods, which include sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, corn, and peanuts.
- Use bird feeders that are easy for them to use, such as trays and hoppers.
- Keep a fresh supply of water available in a birdbath.
And with a little practice, it’s easy to identify Northern Cardinals by their songs and sounds. Interestingly, unlike most other songbirds in the United States, even females sing
- The most common song you will probably hear is a series of clear whistled melodies that sound like the bird is saying “birdie-birdie-birdie” or “cheer-cheer-cheer.” (Listen below!)
#5. Carolina Wren
- Thryothorus ludovicianus
This wren species is a colorful reddish-brown with a distinct white throat and eye line. The edges of their wings and tails are darkly barred, and the bill is long and thin. Both males and females appear similar.
Carolina Wren Range Map
Even though Carolina Wrens are common in Austin, these secretive birds can be hard to see. Look for them in shrubby and bushy areas that provide lots of hiding places.
One of the BEST ways to observe Carolina Wrens is by attracting them to your feeders.
Watch a Carolina Wren sampling many foods in my backyard!
Carolina Wrens are the most common wren that visits feeding stations. Look for these birds eating at your feeders during colder weather. I see them feasting on suet the most, but they also eat peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds, and mealworms. Carolina Wrens rarely visit bird feeders during the summer since there are plenty of insects around for them to eat.
Carolina Wrens are often heard before being seen!
Their song, which is only sung by males, is usually three-parted and sounds like they are saying “tea-kettle tea-kettle tea-kettle.“ These birds are impressive singers, and individuals can make many variations of this song, so you never know exactly what you will hear.
Carolina Wrens are incredibly dedicated partners. Once a male and female find one another, the bond is typically for life. The pair will stay with each other in their territory year-round and even forage and move around together.
#6. Great Egret
- Ardea alba
- Large, white bird with long, black legs.
- S-curved neck and a daggerlike yellow bill. Look for a greenish area between their eyes and the base of the bill.
- While they fly, their neck is tucked in, and their long legs trail behind.
Appearance-wise, Great Egrets are the most stunning heron found in Austin. These birds especially put on a show during breeding season when they grow long feathery plumes, called aigrettes, which are held up during courtship displays.
Great Egret Range Map
In fact, these aigrettes are so beautiful, Great Egrets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because these feathers made such nice decorations on ladies’ hats. The National Audubon Society was actually formed in response to help protect these birds from being slaughtered. To this day, the Great Egret serves as the symbol of the organization.
Slightly smaller than a Great Blue Heron, this species eats almost anything that may be in the water. The list includes reptiles, birds, amphibians, small mammals, and countless invertebrates.
Great Egrets don’t get any awards for their beautiful songs. Listen for a loud sound that is best described as a croak (“kraak).” When surprised, you may hear a fast “cuk-cuk-cuk” alarm call. LISTEN BELOW!
#7. Carolina Chickadee
- Poecile carolinensis
Carolina Chickadees are small birds with a distinctive black cap and bib, dull white cheeks, a gray back, and white underparts. Both males and females look the same.
Carolina Chickadee Range Map
Look for them in a wide variety of habitats across the southeast. You should be able to spot these birds in Austin in deciduous and mixed woodlands and swampy areas. They also adapt well to humans and are extremely common in parks and suburban and urban backyards!
Like most chickadees, they are intensely curious and intelligent. Try attracting them to your backyard by offering a mixture of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Because of their small size and acrobatic abilities, they can use almost every type of bird feeder.
What sounds do Carolina Chickadees make?
Press PLAY above to hear a Carolina Chickadee!
The most common song you will hear them making is a four-note whistle, which sounds like “fee-bee-fee-bay.” Typically, the first and third notes are higher in pitch than the second and fourth.
They also have a call that sounds like they are saying their name “chick-a-dee-dee.” (Press PLAY Above!)
#8. Lesser Goldfinch
- Spinus psaltria
- Males are bright yellow below with a glossy black cap, back, and wings. Also, look for white patches on the wings.
- Females and young males have olive backs, dull yellow underparts, and black wings marked by two whitish bars.
The Lesser Goldfinch is one of the smallest birds in Austin.
But the crazy thing is they are pretty tough around food sources or wildflowers. For example, they’ve been known to chase away the larger Lawrence’s Goldfinch to show dominance.
You’ll find them in weedy fields, farmlands, woodlands, desert oases, parks, and urban settings.
Look for these goldfinches gathered in large groups that can number up to several hundred individuals. You’ll see these flocks around feeding sites and water sources.
Lesser Goldfinch Range Map
Lesser Goldfinches are often found in the suburbs, where they are common visitors to feeders. These small finches eat sunflower seeds, along with the thin-hulled seeds of Nyjer/thistle.
The male’s song is a rapid medley of twittering notes, lasting up to 10 seconds.
#9. House Sparrow
- Passer domesticus
- Males have gray crowns, black bibs, white cheeks, and chestnut coloring on the sides of their faces and neck. Their backs are predominantly brown with black streaks.
- Females are a dull brown color with streaks of black on their backs. Their underparts are light brown. They can be distinguished by the tan line that extends behind their eye.
House Sparrows are an invasive species (originally from the Middle East) and are now one of the most abundant and widespread birds in Austin (and the world)!
Range Map – House Sparrow
House Sparrows compete with many native birds, such as bluebirds and Purple Martins, for nest cavities. Unfortunately, these invasive species tend to win more times than not.
In most urban and suburban areas, it’s INCREDIBLY COMMON to see House Sparrows. They owe their success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Unlike most other birds, they love grains and are commonly seen eating bread and popcorn at amusement parks, sporting events, etc. At your bird feeders, they especially love eating cracked corn, millet, and milo.
House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. In fact, pay attention the next time you’re watching the news in another country. Listen for a simple song that includes lots of “cheep” notes.
#10. Black Vulture
- Coragyps atratus
- Adults are 22-29 in (56-74 cm) tall with a wingspan of 51-66 in (1.3-1.7 m).
- They are all black except for their whitish-gray legs. Even their featherless, leathery faces are black.
Black Vultures primarily eat carrion, but unlike most other vultures, they are known to kill animals to feed on fresh meat. It’s not uncommon for them to prey on living skunks, opossums, and livestock, such as baby pigs, calves, and lambs.
These birds get their name because their entire body is covered in black feathers and a bald head that features black skin. But as they are soaring, you can see silver feathers on the underside of their wings.
It’s easy to tell a Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture apart.
Just remember that Black Vultures have black-colored heads and are short and compact, where Turkey Vultures have red-colored heads and are longer and lankier. If they are soaring above you, Black Vultures will display silvery wingtips. Turkey Vultures have gray feathers that cover the majority of the underside of their wings, and they also fly with their wings slightly raised, which resembles the letter “V.”
Black Vulture Range Map
Look for Black Vultures in the southern United States in both forested and open areas. They prefer to roost and nest in dense forests but forage for food along roads, fields, and other open spaces.
Like most vultures, these birds are mostly silent. The only noises you may hear are grunting and hissing. Trust me; you won’t be hearing any lyrical tunes from these birds!
Which of these birds have you seen before in Austin?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds you may see in Austin, check out my other guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!