Birding the City: Crows and Cowbirds

In an earlier post I clarified in no uncertain terms that I do not like birding in cities or urban settings, yes I actually loathe it. Yet, the birds and the pressure to get that check mark force every birdwatcher to leave the woods and fields behind from time to time and sort through rough and tumble city birds that thrive in our concrete jungles. Yes, among the House Sparrows and pigeons, among the grackles and starlings hide a few rarities. Sometimes these include introduced exotics, that have after decades of free roaming and successful breeding earned countability, or sometimes local rarities take up residence in metropolitan areas. With the with the weather looking poor and a late start to the Saturday it made perfect conditions to chase down a few county uncommons present in the city to add to the list.

We first headed to Wilson Road in northeast Houston to find Fish Crows. After driving up and down the road for several minutes, checking the environs of the Atascocita landfill we came up with just a handful of American Crows. My innate aversion to city birding triumphed over the greed to list and we drove to a nearby county park and lounged by Lake Houston for an hour. On the return we stopped for lunch, yes you guessed it, at the Chick Filet off Wilson Road. Pulling out of the parking lot a crow flew over. Eventually we had four vocal Fish Crow moving from the drive-through to the wires along the road. I watched them and photographed them for several minutes, innocent bystanders wondering wwhat I was staring at.

Fish Crow Harris Co., Photo Stephan Lorenz

In the afternoon a quick stop at Weslayan Rd. for some shopping brought us dangerously close to some uncommon cowbirds. Bronzed Cowbirds, usually more at home to the south and west had taken up residence at a nearby gas station. A quick phone call for the specifics and we stopped at the Chevron right off Highway 59. There was plenty of seed on the ground, but no birds. I scanned nearby poles and signs and found a large group of cowbirds across the freeway. One more traffic light, a right and a left, and voila several Bronzed Cowbirds among flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds. There were a few birds actually sitting on the sign right over the freeway. With Houston’s traffic they should be easy to check off on the home commute, just keep the bins ready on the passenger seat. And yes, no more city birding for a while.

Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbirds Houston, TX Photo Stephan Lorenz

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