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.