Warblers can be found high and low in Houston, Texas. They nest high in trees, low in thickets, on forest floors, the cavities of dead trees, and the branches of old oaks. Warblers sing, whistle and tweet; some have only one song, some species have been known to sing over 400 different tunes. They are shy and bold, drab and colorful, but one thing they are not is boring to observe. Warblers have many interesting behaviors; some bob and wag their tails relentlessly, some skulk on forests floors, while other species are territorial and aggressive. Regardless of the season you are bird watching in Houston, Texas, you will see more than one species of warbler.
If you are interested in seeing a particular species of warbler while bird watching in Houston, Texas, pay attention to its habitat, especially for nesting. For example, a Northern Parula likes to nest in Spanish moss, while an Orange-crowned warbler raises its young in coniferous forests. Some warblers prefer mature forests, while others like swampy, grassy areas. Here are some tips for finding, observing and identifying the warblers of Houston, Texas.
Worm-eating Warbler. This small songbird has a buff-colored head and underparts, as well as black crown stripes. A bit of a drab warbler, it does have very elegant markings. A common visitor in Houston, Texas during its spring migration (March and April), look for it while bird watching in the understory of dense thickets. Interestingly enough, the Worm-eating Warbler eats caterpillars, not worms. It also eats spider and slugs.
Swainson’s Warbler. This secretive, skulking warbler can be hard to find when bird watching in Houston, Texas, but look for it in April through the summer. It prefers wooded swamplands, and forages close to the ground. It is dull brown, unmarked, and does not have wingbars, but you can identify this warbler by its unusually large bill and its loud, ringing call. This warbler is on Audubon’s Watch List, as it is declining in numbers.
Ovenbird. An olive brown bird with a white underside with dark spots, this warbler is very common in Houston, Texas in the spring. Look for its orange crown, bordered with black stripes, while bird watching. This warbler also has a white eyering. You’ll see it foraging and nesting on the ground in forests.
Northern Waterthrush. Look for this warbler while bird watching in Houston, Texas in the spring and fall. You’ll see it foraging on the ground in swamps and bogs, although it can also sometimes be found near wet spots in backyards and parks. Recognize this warbler by the way it constantly bobs its tail, as well as its spotted throat and yellowish eye stripe. It also has a loud, ringing call.
Louisiana Waterthrush. You can distinguish this warbler from the Northern Waterthrush by its unspotted throat and eyestripes that broaden toward the back of its head. A common visitor in Houston, Texas during the spring, you’ll see it while bird watching near woodland springs. It also has a habit of bobbing its tail as it walks. This small songbird looks more like a sparrow than a warbler. You can see it while bird watching along the banks of Rummel Creek at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.
Kentucky Warbler. This little bird has entirely yellow underparts and an olive green back. Recognize it while bird watching from its yellow spectacles and lack of wingbars. You’ll find this warbler near the ground, where it also nests, in Houston, Texas’ deciduous forests. Kentucky Warblers’ populations are in decline because of habitat threats. One interesting fact is that the Kentucky Warbler male sings only one song its entire life.
Common Yellowthroat. You’ll find this warbler while bird watching in swamps and wet thickets. Recognize it from its yellow throat and upper chest (hence its name.) This may be the only warbler that also nests in marshes. The males have black masks. This warbler is common in Houston, Texas throughout the year, and also nests here.
Hooded Warbler. A very striking bird, this warbler is common in Houston, Texas in the spring. It prefers wooded swamps, forests with dense shrubs, and mature, wet woodlands. It underparts are all yellow and it also has a yellow face. The male has a black hood and bib. Look for it while bird watching in Jones State Forest and White Memorial Park. They can usually be found on the ground, and when they flick their tails you’ll see white spots on the feathers. This warbler is very territorial on its winter grounds (it breeds on the Upper Texas Coast.)
Wilson’s Warbler. Look for this warbler’s all yellow breast and olive green back while bird watching, as well as its yellow face. The male has a black cap, and both sexes have yellow eyerings. They are common in the spring and fall in Houston, Texas, but rare during the winter. This warbler prefers willow and other thickets near water.
Canada Warbler. This colorful and very active bird passes through Houston, Texas, in both the spring (April and May) and the fall. Look for them while bird watching near brushy streams in moist forests. They have bright yellow throats, chests and bellies, with a necklace of dark streaks and a white eyering. In the spring the male has black on its face. This warbler is one of the last to head North in the spring and one of the first to head back to South America in the fall. Look for it at High Island and Smith Oaks, foraging in the understory.
Yellow-breasted Chat. This large warbler has a bright yellow chest and throat and an olive green back. Look for it while bird watching in thickets. It can also be recognized by its white spectacles, white belly and long tail. This bird engages in conspicuous display flights when courting, although they remain secretive, skulking in dense thickets, the rest of the year. Fairly common in the spring through the fall in Houston Texas, look for them while bird watching at High Island in the spring.