A pocket wilderness in the heart of Houston.

West 11 Street Park


Since 2001 over 137 species of birds have been recorded at West 11th Street Park.  The best time to see migrating birds in the park are the months of March, April and October.

Birds are warm-blooded, air-breathing vertebrates and their body are covered with feathers. Birds have beaks, wings and scale covered legs

Here are a few guidelines to help you identify a bird you may see in the park:

  • What size is the bird relative to a sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, crow or eagle?
  • Does it have long or short legs, long or short tail?
  • What color is the bird?  Color of the wings, head, etc?
  • What is the shape of the beak/bill?
  • Where did you see this bird - in open water, a pond, forest, prairie, park?
  • Any special movements such as tail wagging, bobbing its head, pecking on a tree?
  • What type of flight pattern - straight line, undulating, soaring?
  • When did you see this bird?  Time of year and time of day.
  • Did the bird call or sing?   What did it sound like?

Visit this link for more information on birds in Houston.

Below are some of the birds that can be seen at West 11th Street Park during the year.

Click on the photo for enlarged view of picture.


Downy Woodpecker Downy Woodpecker

This, the smallest woodpecker in North America, is found across most of the continent. Its range is from coast to coast and from the northern tree line to the Gulf and the deserts and dry grasslands just north of the Mexican border. The female differs from the male only in that it lacks the red occipital patch. Both sexes drum on tree trunks or dead limbs to advertise their presence and proclaim their territorial rights. Their agility comes from their small size and allows them to feed on smaller branches and farther out on their tips than other woodpeckers.

 Red-bellied Woodpecker Red-bellied Woodpecker

This noisy common woodpecker has adapted to different habitats from southern pine forests to northern hardwoods, scattered trees and urban parks.  They are 9 to 10 inches in height.  Their upper parts have black and white barring in a zebra pattern.  The "red-belly" comes from a reddish wash low on the belly and between the legs that is difficult to see in the field.  In flight, it shows a white rump, white patches at the base of their primary wings and white-barred central tail feathers.  The male has a red crown and nape.  The female differs in that her crown is gray, but she also has a red nape.  They nest and roost nightly in tree cavities.

Red-headed Woodpecker Red-headed Woodpecker

8 to 9 inches in height.  A very striking bird and the only woodpecker with an entirely red head.  The back is solid black with a white rump.  Large square white patch is on the wings.  The male establishes a territory and advertises for a mate with calling and drumming.  The female indicates acceptance of the site by tapping on the tree.  The young are fed by both parents and leave the nest after 27 to 31 days.  Click on this link to find out more about the Red-headed Woodpecker.

 Pileated Woodpecker Pileated Woodpecker

These crow-sized woodpeckers drum on trees to claim territory and attract a mate; the loud heavy sound is as if the tree is being hit with a wooden mallet.  They are between 16 and 19 inches in height.  Each mating pair excavates several roosting cavities and may retire for the evening to one of them.  The male roosts in a tree hollow before the eggs are laid and afterwards incubates them there at night.  The male has a scarlet mustache while the female's is black.  In flight, both show a large white patch at the base of their primary wings feathers as well as white underwing linings. They eat ants, beetles and a variety of other insects, especially tree-boring ones, acorns, beechnuts, seeds of tree cones, nuts and various fruits.

Northern Flicker Northern Flicker

12 to 14 inches in height.  Flicker often hops awkwardly on ground while feeding on ants.  Its flight is undulating.  This brown woodpecker flashes bright colors under the wings and tail when it flies.  Its ringing calls and short bursts of drumming can be heard in the spring.  Close up it displays a black patch across the chest and a red crescent shape on the nape.  Males defend nesting territory with calling, drumming and many other aggressive displays, including swinging its head back and forth.   Nest site is a cavity in dead wood or pine trees.  Nest sites are excavated by both sexes.

Chuck-Will's Widow Chuck-Will's Widow

Thought to be declining in parts of its range, possibly because of loss of habitat.  Breeds in shady woodlands of various types including open pine forest.  By day, the bird is seldom detected as it rests on horizontal tree limbs or on the ground.  Forages at night and is most active at dusk and dawn and on moonlit nights.  Can often be seen foraging in continuous flight along the edges of woods.

Northern Waterthrush Northern Waterthrush

6 inches in size.  Often walks along water's edge while bobbing their tails, similar to a Spotted Sandpiper.  Most other warblers forage in foliage, often high in trees.  This extremely well-camouflaged bird is a type of large warbler that migrates through Houston in late spring.  It has been seen at West 11th Street Park in late April or early May.  Those tiny dots on the throat are a field mark that helps separate this species from the very similar Louisiana Waterthrush.

Photo by Professor Mark Kulstad.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

4 inches in size.  This bird has been a winter visitor here in the park.  This tiny bird has plumage that is rather drab and nondescript for much of the year.  However, as the name implies, there is a moment of glory during the mating season, when a male Ruby-Crowned Kinglet appears with this gorgeous red cap at the top of its head.

Photo by Professor Mark Kulstad.

Eastern Screech Owl Eastern Screech Owl

The only small eastern owl (7 to 10 inches) with ear tufts.  This owl can be seen in two colors:  foxy red and gray.  No other eared owl is bright foxy red.  This owl spends the day roosting in holes or in dense cover, becoming active at dusk.  Despite the name, screech-owls do not screech; the voice of this owl features whinnies and soft trills.  Forages at dusk and at night.  Hunts mostly by watching from a perch and then swooping down to take prey from the ground or from foliage.  Can locate prey by sound as well as by sight.

Great Horned Owl Great Horned Owl

The most widespread owl in North America, and perhaps the most powerful, this owl often attacks animals much larger and heavier than itself. These include domestic cats, skunks and porcupines.  Between 18 to 25 inches tall.     Although nocturnal in behavior, it sometimes hunts during the day. It primarily feeds on mammals but also eats birds, reptiles and amphibians. In defending its nest and young, it will strike at humans who approach too closely.


Previous page: Bees
Next page: Butterflies