Migration is Natural
Texans are always surprised to learn that more than 98% of North America’s Nearctic-Neotropical bird species come to Texas. Bird migrants literally funnel through as they travel back and forth between seasonal nesting and foraging grounds, spanning as far north as Canada and as far south as South and Central America. Unlike the mockingbird and northern cardinal who stay all year, more than half of all bird species that call Texas home are migrants.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is celebrated at the end of each summer, making their way through our yards as they migrate. Having excellent spatial memory, they not only remember where the best food sources are as they travel, some are even known to return to the same backyard feeders year after year! They consume a lot of flower nectar and insects as they travel long distances, and Master Naturalists and other caring citizens will supplement with nectar feeders to help them fatten up quickly; migrating hummers must fuel their high metabolism as fat stores in order to fly non-stop across The Gulf of Mexico.
Migration is not for birds alone. Thousands of years before a near extirpation in the early 20th century, large herds of wild bison predictably migrated into Texas along the coastal prairies of Fort Bend, Waller, and Wharton Counties to feed on grasses. The indigenous populations of people who already thrived here planned on their return for subsistence, hunting them into what is now the Katy Prairie. Today, a tiny fraction of wild bison remains in Texas, saved from extinction but no longer able to migrate as they might naturally do.
The now federally protected Monarch butterfly is the most well-known insect that migrates. They too endure major losses and fragmentation of habitat through human activity. Texas Master Naturalists help them by providing suitable habitat over their entire life cycle – from egg to larva, larva to pupa, pupa to adult. We welcome them to and through suburban properties and pocket prairies; we help others to select and plant milkweeds native to our counties. We also educate them to avoid non-native tropical milkweed sold readily at garden stores but can cause disease in Monarch populations when not managed or tended through our mild winters.
Migration is a natural behavior among many species of Texas, especially birds. Thank you to Houston Audubon Society, TMNCPC partner in conservation. Enjoy the nature events of September and get to know your traveling neighbors better!
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.Frank Lloyd Wright
Upcoming Nature Programs and Events
JOIN US for any number of these mostly free and for the public, in-person events in the upcoming weeks. Look for Texas Master Naturalists Coastal Prairie Chapter to be ready for your curiosity and questions, happy to connect you to nature right where you are.
- TMNCPC’s inaugural Nature Day at Seabourne Creek’s Butterfly Garden – Saturday, September 23, 2023, 10 AM until 2 PM; join us for some outdoor fun and learn about butterflies
- Houston Audubon’s Bird Week 2023 – various days, times, and venues from Saturday, September 23, 2023 until Saturday, September 30, 2023; explore the schedule and get involved
- Gulf Coast Bird Observatory’s Hummingbird Xtravaganza – two Saturdays September 16 and 23, 2023, 8 AM until 12 PM; see the flyer for more information … share it
- Houston Audubon’s Native Plant Sale – September 30, 2023, 8 AM until 11 AM; shop their nursery for “real deal” natives in-person or order on-line for pickup
About the Header Image
TMNCPC member Shannon Westveer’s family regularly visited the Hummingbird Xtravaganza when her kids were younger. As staff caught, examined, and tagged individual Ruby-throated hummingbirds, children who adopted one were allowed to learn alongside the tagger and helped “blow” the hummingbird off their hand, up, up, and away. In the center photo, Monarch butterfly nectars on native milkweed to Fort Bend and surrounding counties, the small and understated white flowers of Asclepias perennis. This is a favorite of Monarch mothers on which to lay her eggs, continuing one of what will be several generations in the year. Her great, great, great granddaughter somehow knows to over-winter in a tree she’s never known.
Learn More about Migrating Species
National Audubon Society, Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration Timeline | https://explorer.audubon.org/explore/species/1550/ruby-throated-hummingbird/migration?sidebar=collapse&layersPanel=expand&zoom=3&x=172727.8072499996&y=1998631.3270000005&range=0.8050%2C0.8250
Monarch Joint Venture, Monarch Migration | https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration
American Bird Conservancy, 10 Fascinating Facts About Hummingbirds | https://abcbirds.org/blog20/ten-fascinating-facts-about-hummingbirds/