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Monday, February 06, 2006

Back In Austin

A couple days in Austin, Texas last week were good for the soul. Sitting at a light on Airport Blvd, a Red-shouldered Hawk scared up a flock of grackles sitting in a tree behind a fast-food restaurant. Flying around in the flock were two Monk Parakeets (see photo). These green gems are all over Austin, nesting in huge nests on power poles and business signs, and may well be the most popular birds in the city. Monk Parakeets were first found in Austin during the early 1980s, and have bred here for over 20 years. They are originally from Argentina and Brazil, and were introduced into Austin, and other cities across the country, probably by pet owners who tired of caring for the loud and long-lived green and gray birds. Now, they are a part of the local scene, giving a tropical air to Austin as they fly over the city.

At a small pond in front of the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility on MLK Blvd in East Austin, I was surprised to find 235 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. These birds are regular breeders in Austin, but I've never seen more than maybe 50 of them in one place before, so it was quite a shock to see this many standing together on the edge of a small pond just off the road. Whistling Ducks (see USFWS photo) used to be rare in the Austin area, but have expanded their range over the last few decades, and are now--as indicated by this sighting--fairly common in some areas, and a couple years ago we decided to feature one on the logo of the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory.

5 comments:

Ed Cannon said...

A week or two ago about 12:30 PM one day I heard and then saw a flock of 20 to 30 birds fly above me in Hyde Park. I thought they sounded and looked like parrots, but I could not see their color -- only their shape against the sky above. But they were raucous. So I suppose they were monk parakeets. I read a story online somewhere that in the 1970s a woman released 19 monk parakeets at once here in Austin, as a sort of make-up to nature for the extinction of the Carolina parakeet.

birdchaser said...

Yes, there was an American Statesman article about that woman back in 1995. These Monk Parakeets have been spreading across Austin for over 20 years now. At first they were mostly along the river, but now they are found over a much wider part of the city--including Hyde Park.

reginaann said...

1/2009 I live in the Palmer and Lamplight Village area. Today a Monk Parakeet visited my birdfeeder. I've only seen theres down town by town lake. Does anyone know if there are any colonies this far north? It was exciting to see it at my bird feeder!

Lorri Haase said...

We live in the older neighborhood of Forest North in North West Austin (Jollyville) area. This is the second summer we have seen but mostly hear these Monk Parrots! Very exciting to have them here. I am not sure if they are just stopping off here for a few weeks or establishing a home. We don't see them any other time of the year.

Anonymous said...

There are four black bellied whistling ducks either nesting or dining in South Austin in the Brodie Heights condo area. Glad to discover their name.

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