The Big and the Small of It – Migratory Birds in the Hill Country

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Tony Maples Photography


The Big and the Small of It - Migratory Birds in the Hill Country

By Lloyd Tackitt

Every year, birds migrate from the Hill Country, other birds migrate to the Hill Country, many pass through the Hill Country, and some stay year round. There are 900 bird species in the USA, and most all of them can be spotted in Texas at one time or another. The migration covers a huge number of species, the Hill Country is a hotspot for bird watching.

Two of those species are the Bald Eagle and the Black Chinned Hummingbird. Both can be seen in the Hill Country. There are approximately 1,000 Bald Eagles that come to Texas each winter. In the Hill Country there is a group that returns to Lake Buchanan every year, and some of them nest and raise their young there before going north again. If you want to see these magnificent birds you can take special tours on Lake Buchanan.

Bald Eagle

The Big and the Small of It - Migratory Birds in the Hill Country


Bald Eagles are huge. They stand three feet tall, have a wing span of eight feet, and they weigh fourteen pounds. They can carry a four pound load in flight. These giant eagles are monogamous and mate for life. Their nests are gigantic, extending out 6 feet in diameter and made from hundreds of pounds of material. Returning to their same nests every year they add to the structure making it larger year by year. In Texas up to 156 breeding pairs have been recorded. The eagles arrive in October, lay their eggs – usually two – and raise their young up to July before heading north again. The non-breeding eagles generally leave in March.

At the other end of the size spectrum, there are over a dozen species of Hummingbirds that live or travel through Texas. In the Hill Country, the most often spotted is the Black Chinned Hummingbird. Here’s a fun fact for you, it takes 2,648 humming birds to weigh as much as one Bald Eagle. You can travel to see Hummingbirds, but you can also bring them to you and enjoy watching from the comfort of your recliner as they feed outside your window. Buy a couple, or more, feeders (hint: some feeders come with ant-guards built in) and hang them where you can watch, and watch these tiny birds year round.

Black Chinned Hummingbird

The Big and the Small of It - Migratory Birds in the Hill Country


A simple recipe for the nectar is one part sugar to four parts water, boil for one to two minutes, cool and store in your refrigerator. Clean the feeders every three to four days and replace the nectar. Do not use honey, it can ferment and cause sores in the hummingbird’s mouths. Of course you know better than to use artificial sweeteners, although some have made that mistake. Don’t add food coloring to the nectar, as long as the feeder itself has some red color in it you don’t need to anyway.

In the Hill Country, you may also spot the occasional Ruby Throated Hummingbird, although they aren’t all that common. But you still have a good chance; nearly seven-million hummingbirds pass through the State of Texas every year, a good chunk of those passing through the Hill Country, and some of those will be varieties other than the Black Chinned.

Put out some feeders, keep the nectar fresh and the feeders clean, and help these tiny guys out, it is a Texan kind of thing to do after all.