Autumn Birds

The annual autumn bird migration through Central Texas is mostly completed. I typically observe fewer birds coming through my garden in fall than in spring, but there are always a few who spend time in the trees and shrubs and splish-splash in the pond.

This fall several male adults and at least one female adult Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia, popped by for visits. These sunny critters are hard to miss: dashes of yellow through the air, pops of yellow in trees and shrubs, flashes of yellow in the shallows of the pond. These bright streaks-n-spots in the garden are busy, busy birds–they don’t stay still for long! I’m glad this one wanted some warmth from the sun after his bath; he perched long enough for a quick photo.

Male Yellow Warblers are brilliantly yellow, with lovely burnished breast streaks. Females and juvenile males are yellow in a softer hue, but lack the markings on the breast. These beauties winter in Central America and northern parts of South America.

I took plenty of photos of “Yellow Warblers” but as I downloaded the shots, it happened that some birds were Yellow and some were just yellow. The two just yellows are female or immature Wilson’s Warblers, Cardellina pusilla.

Several years ago, I enjoyed the visit of a male Wilson’s Warbler, his little black cap a signature accessory. This fall, the two who bathed in the pond and bopped through my garden didn’t rock black hats, but instead, attractive arches of yellow over their eyes–the clue to their identities. These birds are heading for Central America, to rest, eat well, and prepare for next year’s breeding season.

An Eastern Phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, graced my garden for several days, dipping in the pond, fluffing in the trees, catching insects on the wing. This bird is a flycatcher and some of its winter non-breeding range is located in Texas, though south of where I live in Austin. I see one or two almost every spring during migration, though I don’t recall ever spotting one in fall.

The Phoebe has a charming way of tilting its head back and forth, as if listening for important news. As insects are its main food source, the Phoebe is a fast and agile flyer, and an excellent hunter of many kinds of insects.

From November to April, I’m fortunate to host several kinds of warblers and I’m eagerly awaiting their settling in the garden. It’s always a thrill to observe them for the first time, but I never grow tired of their presence; their beauty and calls are a joy in the winter garden. I’ve already seen a couple of Orange-Crowned Warblers, but both moved on to other places, other spaces. Neither were my warblers.

C’mon little warblers: there’s plenty of food and water, trees and cover, and the cats are in the house. What are you waiting for??

18 thoughts on “Autumn Birds

  1. As knowledgeable about birds as you are, your impression of autumn in Austin includes much more than mine does. It’s good of you to make them welcome in your yard. Your mention of several bird species wintering in Central America makes me wonder whether I might have inadvertently seen some when I lived in Honduras in 1968 and ’69.


    • I’m not really all that knowledgeable, but I do like watching the backyard visitors and learning about them. I’m sure you saw some of the same species of birds in Honduras that we get through here…and even more, most likely.


    • Ye, the pond is a definite draw for birds. My one regret in building it is that we don’t have a “shore” for the birds to puddle in, but there seem to be plenty of spots where the water is shallow and the little ones really like that.


  2. Such sunny little birds! We have been warbler-free so far this Fall but we have had a couple of Eastern Phoebes passing through. Watching them “hawking” is a delight – they are so very skilled at catching insects on the wing.


    • They are sunny! In the warbler world, there are so many that are yellow, yellow/black. I wonder what the evolution of that is? Harder to see in the rain forests? They are so pretty though and I can’t wait until my winter warblers show up!


    • Thank you, Eliza! I’ve had some eye problems recently (a cataract that needs removal), so sometimes I take a photo, thinking it’s clear only to realize upon download that it’s sooo not. 😦 Anyhow, eventually it’ll be fixed, so there’s that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such pretty little birds! I can’t remember seeing any of these warblers, although I can recognize the Myrtle Warblers, and often see them in this area. The Phoebe is especially charming, with that tilted head. You’ve done a wonderful job of creating an attractive environment for them, so it’s no wonder so many stop by to drink and bathe. Who knows? Perhaps they chirp directions to your place to one another as they fly.


    • Those Phoebes are darling, I wish more would come through as they’re so fun to watch. Maybe birds have a ‘feather dance’ like honeybees have their ‘waggle dance’ to tell one another where a nectar/pollen source is.

      Liked by 1 person

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