Finding myself with a couple hours to spare today before my talk at Houston Audubon, I decided to go on another exotic urban bird quest. After picking up a rental car at Hobby Airport, I cruised over to The Heights, an early 20th Century neighborhood of cottage style homes just north of I-10 in search of Red-vented Bulbuls. Birders have reported these Asian birds in Houston off and on for about 10 years. These birds have a reputation for being very aggressive invaders in new settings, but so far we don't know a lot about how they are doing in Houston.
On a tip from a local birder, I drove to the corner of E 5 1/2 Street and Frasier Street (map here), and sure enough almost immediately I saw a single Red-vented Bulbul in a tree. It flew back and forth across E 5 1/2 street several times, eating berries from one of the trees near the lumber yard. After I parked the car, I walked back and got closer looks before it flew off behind the house north of the road and disappeared.
Questing for exotic urban birds isn't for everybody, especially when they aren't considered established or listable by the American Birding Association, but exotic urban birds are a part of our American avifauna now, like it or not, so we might as well start keeping track of them.
Bulbul hunters should be advised that these birds may be scattered over 100 square miles of the Greater Houston area, though The Heights seems to be one area where they are more often reported (other recent Heights locations include 7th and Arlington). Check the TEXBIRDS email list archives (here) for any recent sightings, and please report your sightings online as well. No matter how you feel about introduced exotic urban bird pests, its a good idea for us all to keep track of the strange birds in our midsts--if only to know if they are causing problems with our native birds.
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