Migratory Birds

cattle egret

Cattle Egret

  • Short, thick neck
  • Hunched posture
  • Yellow to orange bill

Great Egret

  • Large white bird
  • Bill is thin, long and yellow
  • Long slender neck
  • Black/gray legs and feet

Whooping Crane

(Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife)


Great Blue Heron

  • Very large bird
  • Slate blue body
  • Blue/green legs


Migratory birds such as cattle egrets are commonly seen in Texas as they journey annually between the United States and Canada. This natural cycle is a beautiful part of our ecosystem. Under federal law, the entire rookery (nesting colony) is protected once a single egg is found in a single nest.

The migratory birds are beneficial to the ecosystem in the following ways. They eat mosquitos carrying Zika virus and chikungunya virus. They help protect farm crops by eating 600-800 grasshoppers and crickets a day. They improve the health of livestock by eating fleas, flies, and occasionally ticks.

Challenges arise when rookeries settle near populated areas. These concerns relate to noise, odor, and other significant environmental impacts. City staff and residents are prohibited from interfering or harassing the birds once a rookery is protected. The best way to avoid the residential and environmental impact that may occur is with detection and public awareness. Residents can address the situation proactively by following these guidelines:

January to March

  • Learn how your neighborhood plans to distribute news of bird sightings. Get help contacting or locating your neighborhood association.
  • Familiarize yourself with "sentry" birds. They are the first to arrive, looking for good nesting places. Report sightings to your neighbors.
  • Familiarize yourself with the variety of birds found in Texas.
  • Each species has a different breeding period. Be on the lookout for these birds beginning at these times:
  • February - Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
  • March - Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret
  • As soon as you see birds on or near your property, begin using scare tactics.
  • Use noisemakers, water spray or shine lights at night.
  • Hang "scare eye" balloons or other moving objects in trees. Scare Eye Balloon
  • Use long poles, tennis balls or water hoses to disturb early nesting material.
  • Do not harm birds or eggs. These birds are protected by international treaty.
  • Once birds begin sitting on nests, eggs are probably present. You cannot kill, harass, move or disturb the birds when they are actively nesting.

Nesting Season (March – October)

  • Do not kill, harass, relocate, move or attempt to scare away the birds by any means during nesting season.

Pre- and Post-Nesting Season (November - February)

  • Remove any old, abandoned nests.
  • Trim your trees. Remove deadwood, and thin tree canopy to allow sunlight between limbs and other trees.
  • Destroy new nests before egg laying.
  • Use a combination of scaring devices before migratory birds lay eggs.

(Sources: Texas Parks and WildlifeAudubon Texas)