Monk Parakeets and other GBBC goodies
DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — The Great Backyard Bird Count is on this weekend, as most North American birders are aware. I don’t have a backyard, and standing on the asphalt behind my apartment did not sound appealing. Thankfully, the “backyard” bit is not intended to be exclusive; the idea is to get as many records of as many species as possible — wherever they may be found. So, I squeezed in two short trips today to do my part for the project. (By the way, the count extends through Monday. Have you submitted a checklist yet? Follow the link above to find out how.)
The first trip was to the dam at Joe Pool Lake. It was there I discovered the White-winged Scoters that I blogged about earlier today. When I first arrived at the lake this morning, I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Ring-billed Gulls on the water. They were scattered across the surface for as far as I could see, but within two hours, nearly all of them had left. I estimated there to be at least 1,000 birds.
I was disappointed not to find the Osprey in its usual tree, but I did get an immature Cooper’s Hawk half-heartedly harassing robins and other birds. I picked up two Eared Grebes and a Great Egret who was in breeding plumage.
In the afternoon, I decided to walk around in central Duncanville to look for Monk Parakeets. I’d located four nests or partial nests on power poles around the city, but despite watching them closely for several weeks, I had never seen the parakeets. I’d begun to wonder whether the birds still lived here, but I saw three fly overhead on Friday. That convinced me that they must be around somewhere but that I probably wouldn’t see them from my car.
So, I drove to a small city park to see what I could find. No sooner did I get out of the car than I saw half a dozen of the parakeets feeding in a tree. Easier than I thought! I walked around the area and found a total of about 25 Monk Parakeets, and (to my surprise) a yard full of about 50 White-winged Doves. Mockingbirds, House Finches, Cardinals, Great-tailed Grackles, and Mourning Doves were all singing, and I even heard a half-hearted call from one of the White-winged Doves.
The parakeets were feeding some of the earliest budding trees, like this Bradford pear. You can see that this bird’s mouth is full of tree bud. Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) are well established in the Metroplex, but not everyone is happy to see them, as this article from the Dallas Morning News explains.
One small flock was feeding on the ground, and a police car flushed the birds as I tried to take their picture. They appeared to be eating acorns from the live oaks, among other things. For more on Monk Parakeets’ diet, behavior, homeland, and conquests, you can look through the wealth of information at the Institute for Biological Invasions Monk Parakeet page.
It is interesting to note that three of the most abundant species I recorded in central Duncanville (Great-tailed Grackle, White-winged Dove, and Monk Parakeet) did not occur here in decades past. But they’re all here now, and here to stay by the look of things.