Need an afternoon activity? Here are 7 common Houston birds you can try to spot in your backyard

People of all ages can enjoy birdwatching as a means of getting fresh air while passing the time.
People of all ages can enjoy birdwatching as a means of getting fresh air while passing the time. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Need a new hobby to keep you and the kiddos occupied while staying at home? Here’s a fun and simple idea: start a nature-based scavenger hunt with bird watching.

Bird watching is a great way to get moving, get out the house and get acquainted with nature. There’s no better time to find out why it’s such a popular past-time. Many people even fix up their backyards to attract more birds. Here’s a guide on how to do this.

Did you know more than 600 species of birds live in or travel through the city of Houston? Here’s a list of 7 common birds you can find in your backyard. When you spot them all, there are hundreds more to choose from to keep the time flying.

1. Blue Jay

Physical traits: This bird is easy to spot with its trademark blue color. The Blue Jay has a blue head and back and a white underparts. It also has a white line across its wings and a black line on its tail. There’s no physical distinction between males and females.

Fun Fact: Their feathers are actually not blue! They only appear blue due to an effect the light has on its feather barbs.

Likes: Seeds, nuts, berries, eggs, insects, suet and birdbaths

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2. Northern Mockingbird

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Another Mocking bird out the back... #mockingbird

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Physical traits: Mockingbirds might be easier to find by listening rather than looking. Ever hear a bird singing like a car alarm? It was probably the Northern Mockingbird. They have narrow bodies with long tails and are mostly gray in color with white patches.

Fun Fact: Northern Mockingbirds usually sing a dozen different songs back to back, and males can learn as many as 200 songs during its lifespan.

Likes: Berries, insects, small lizards and a variety of perches

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3. American Robin

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Physical traits: The American Robin has distinctive brick-red underparts. It also has grayish-brown wings, a dark-colored head and white rings around the eyes. They have round bodies with long legs and long tailfeathers.

Fun Fact: In American Robin nests, both parents contribute to feeding the young birds and take home defense very seriously.

Likes: Fruit and invertebrates

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4. Northern Cardinal

Physical traits: Probably one of the easiest birds to spot, the Northern Cardinal is recognized for the strikingly red-feathered bodies of the males. They also have black mask-like markings on their heads. Females are mostly light brown in color with red tinges. Both males and females have short, thick beaks and prominent feathers on their heads, known as crests.

Fun Fact: People have often witnessed cardinals attacking their windows. This is because the birds believe their reflections are rivals that need to be fought.

Likes: Berries, seeds, insects and bird baths

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5. White-winged Dove

Physical traits: This very common Houston bird has a large oval-shaped body and small round head. It can be distinguished from the Mourning Dove by its solid brown-colored upperparts and white lining on the wings. The White-winged Dove also has blue rings around the eyes.

Fun Fact: Though now commonly found in the urban areas of Houston, this bird originally kept to brush habitats. The White-winged Dove was forced to adapt to city life after losing much of its territory to agricultural development.

Likes: Grains, fruits, seeds and elevated bird feeders

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6. Cooper’s Hawk

Physical traits: Large birds (male 14” – 16” and female 16” – 19”) that in adulthood have red eyes, dark colored heads, blue-gray backs and white underparts with reddish-brown barring.

Fun Fact: For Cooper’s Hawks, catching a meal is dangerous work. They often sustain injuries like bone fractures while flying through branches to hunt their prey.

Likes: Medium sized birds, small mammals and tall trees on flat ground

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7. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Physical traits: In contrast to their name, Red-bellied Woodpeckers actually have more red feathers on their head than their belly. They also have a long thin black beak, grayish-white underparts and a black back with white barring.

Fun Fact: Their tongues have barbed tips and can extend almost 2 inches past their beaks. They also have very sticky spit. All of these traits help them get food.

Likes: Insects, spiders, nuts, seeds, fruits, lizards, nestling birds, minnows, dead trees/tree limbs and fence posts

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Let the bird watching begin:

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