What kinds of birds can you find in San Antonio, Texas?
Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown San Antonio 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 other green spaces that offer hiding spaces for shyer birds.
Below, you will learn the TEN most common birds that are found around San Antonio!
#1. 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 San Antonio 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!
- Anas platyrhynchos
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most recognizable birds in San Antonio!
Mallard Range Map
Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located. We even find Mallards in our swimming pool every summer and have to chase them away, so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂
Mallards readily accept artificial structures built for them by humans. If you have a nice pond or a marsh, feel free to put up a homemade nesting area to enjoy some adorable ducklings walking around your property! Just make sure you put up predator guards so predators can’t get to the eggs.
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
#3. 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 San Antonio!
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 San Antonio, 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!)
#4. House Sparrow
- Passer domesticus
- Males have gray crowns, black bib, white cheeks, and chestnut on the sides of their face 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 now one of the most abundant and widespread birds in San Antonio (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 invasives 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.
#5. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized grey songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are NOT easy to miss in San Antonio!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂
In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, it’s common for them to harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
Northern Mockingbird Range Map
These grey birds are common in backyards, but they rarely eat from bird feeders. Nonetheless, I have heard from many people complaining that mockingbirds are scaring away the other birds from their feeding station, even though mockingbirds don’t even eat from feeders themselves!
#6. 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!
#7. White-winged Dove
- Zenaida asiatica
- A pale grayish-brown dove with a white stripe on the edge of the wing.
- Short, square-tipped tail.
- Distinctive black mark on their cheek.
White-winged Doves have adapted well to the presence of humans, and they are commonly found in cities and backyards in San Antonio. They readily visit bird feeding stations that offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, milo, and cracked corn.
White-winged Dove Range Map
Like other dove species, White-winged Doves have a few interesting abilities:
- When nestlings are born, the parents feed them something known as “crop milk.” This secretion is regurgitated from the lining of the esophagus.
- Pigeons and doves can drink water while their head is down. They don’t need to look skyward to swallow, which is rare among birds.
Males sing to attract females and make a series of hooting coos, which sounds like they are saying, “who cooks for you.” Many times, the final coo is longer than the rest.
#8. Great Egret
- 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 bird in San Antonio. 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 for 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!
#9. Red-shouldered Hawk
- Buteo lineatus
- Adults are 15-19 in (38-48 cm) tall, with a wingspan of 38-42 in (96-107 cm).
- They have ruddy-brown shoulders and undersides, with black and white striped plumage on their wings and tails.
- Their eyes are black, and their beaks and feet are bright yellow.
Distinctly marked, Red-shouldered Hawks have a barred rufous chest, mostly white underwings, a strongly banded tail, and of course, red shoulders that are visible when perched.
Red-shouldered Hawk Range Map
While Red-tailed Hawks own large open areas, Red-shouldered Hawks are primarily forest dwellers. Their favorite places are woods with an open upper canopy since this extra space allows them to hunt more efficiently. These birds of prey in San Antonio are also common in suburban areas where houses have been mixed into woodlands.
Watch a Red-shouldered Hawk hunting in my backyard!
When hunting, these raptors drop onto their prey directly from overhead, making their hunting style unique. You can see this behavior perfectly above, as a Red-shouldered Hawk tries to catch a squirrel in my backyard! (Don’t worry, the hawk is unsuccessful.)
It’s common to hear a Red-shouldered Hawk before you see one. Listen for a loud call that sounds like “kee-ahh,” which is often repeated several times.
#10. House Finch
- Haemorhous mexicanus
- Adult males are rosy red around their heads and upper breasts. They have brown streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Females are brown with streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Both sexes have conical beaks designed to eat seeds and notched tails.
House Finches are prevalent in San Antonio near people. Look for House Finches around buildings, backyards, parks, and other urban and suburban areas.
House Finch Range Map
House Finches are often the first birds to discover new bird feeders. These birds are intensely curious and rarely travel alone, so their arrival often helps other birds find your feeders too! I see them eating sunflower seed, Nyjer seed, and safflower the most in my backyard.
House Finches have a pleasant and enjoyable song, which can be heard year-round. Listen below to a series of jumbled, warbled notes.
Which of these birds have you seen before in San Antonio?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds you may see in San Antonio, 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!