Our Wild Texas – October 2020

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Prowling for Owls – 5 Tips

2 great horned owlets

Great horned owl fledglings

If you've never seen an owl in your backyard, that doesn't mean one isn't there. Most owls are nocturnal, so they're tough to spot. We have 17 species of owls in Texas, and some, like the Eastern screech owl and great horned owl, are found across the state, including in suburbs and cities. Try these tips to spot owls: 

1. Listen for owl calls at night.

2. Keep an eye on bird baths and other water sources at night.

3. Scan large trees with binoculars during the day, a flashlight at night.

4. Watch for owls in winter, when trees are bare.

5. Install an owl nest box (see story below). 

On Halloween night, join Texas Nature Trackers biologists as they try to strike up a conversation with wild owls in a Facebook Live event, Halloween Hootenanny. It's also a full moon night – just right for an owl prowl!

The more you know about owl habits, the better your chance of seeing them. Discover more about our nocturnal neighbors in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story, Whooo Gives a Hoot? 

2 Ways to Make Owls Feel at Home

2 sleepy screech owls in an owl nestbox

Having owls around your house is a good thing, because they eat rats, roaches and mice. Here are two ways to encourage owls to live on your property: 

1. Install an owl nest box. You can buy or make one – try a screech owl box to start.

2. Some owls nest in dead tree cavities or broken-off trunks. Dead trees are important to wildlife in general, so don't cut them down if they aren't a safety hazard, and an owl or two may move in! Watch our short video of a great horned owl and its chick to see how they made a trunk a home.

Not all owls live in trees – our burrowing owl makes its home underground. Watch the video All About Burrowing Owls to find out more about these unique birds.

Vote on the Future Monarch Butterfly Plate 

monarch plate with question mark

The annual monarch butterfly migration through Texas has begun! To celebrate, we're asking for your help in creating a monarch-themed license plate by voting for your favorite design. Proceeds from this plate will fund research and activities that benefit monarchs and other at-risk wildlife. You'll be able to purchase the new monarch butterfly plate in 2021 – after you vote, you can sign up to be notified when it's available. 

4 Tips for a Successful Pollinator Garden

common buckeye butterfly on mistflower in autumn

Pollinators in your garden add to its charm, and fall is a great time to plant flowers to attract them. Four things to know when choosing plants:

1. Color: Some butterflies can't see red, but most are fans of bright pink, purple, yellow, orange and white flowers.

2. Shape: Different shapes attract different pollinators. Hummers like tubular flowers. Butterflies don't hover well, so they like flowers with a place to land.

hummingbird with pollen on its beak

3. Scent: Aroma attracts butterflies, choose scented flowers when possible. 

4. Grow native plants, or your local pollinators may not be able access the nectar.

For ideas on what to plant, check the Xerces Society's Pollinator Plants, sorted by color, bloom period and other helpful traits. For more tips on creating a successful pollinator garden, see Make a Butterfly Garden

The Pollinator BioBlitz Is Happening!

Pollinator Bioblitz

The pandemic hasn't stopped butterflies, bees, or this year's 5th Annual Texas Pollinator Bioblitz, which started Oct. 2 and runs through Oct. 18. It's fun, it's free, and it helps pollinators. 

American snout butterfly

It's safe and easy to participate: take photos or video of pollinators and flowers, then share them on social media and iNaturalist using #TxPollinators. Or join a safe Bioblitz event. See you out there!

Backyard Wildlife: The Underrated Opossum


Opossums are commonly found in backyards across Texas, and many folks view them with suspicion. But opossums are not just unique, they're an asset. Check out these fun opossum facts:

  • One opossum may eat up to 5,000 ticks a year. This can mean fewer ticks in your yard, lowering your exposure to tickborne illnesses, like Lyme disease.
  • Opossums are not prone to rabies infections. 
  • They're our only marsupial and carry their babies in a pouch.
  • Opossums have a prehensile tail and can use it to hang like a monkey.
  • When frightened, opossums seem to "play dead." 

Discover more about this special little backyard-dweller in the magazine story, Playing Possum.

Animal Names Reveal Texas’ Hispanic Heritage

Texas armadillo

Did you know that some names of our local wild animals are rooted in Spanish, a language spoken by early explorers and settlers? Here are some animal names that may surprise you with their meanings:

  • Mosquito = little fly
  • Armadillo = armored
  • Alligator = the lizard

Discover the stories behind these animal names and others in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine blog post, Hispanic Heritage Month - Our Animals.

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