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Bird Surveys

Rice University Bird Survey

Leaders: Cin-Ty Lee, Stuart Nelson, and Mark Kulstad

Bi-Weekly Census on Tuesday Mornings

Next Survey: January 28, 2020

Believe it or not, in one more month, the first signs of northward bound birds may start. It will be interesting to see what birds from December have stuck around and whether this last cold front pushed in any new birds from the north. A few birds that appear to have lingered are an assortment of sparrows, such as Field, Chipping, Swamp and Lincoln's, which we will look for. As usual, we will also pay attention to other life forms as we continue to document biodiversity on campus to better understand how life survives (or not) in dense urban centers. All are welcome, including beginners!

-- Cin-Ty Lee

Previous survey reports are on my blog.

About the Survey

We're conducting a biweekly census on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. During migration periods, we may schedule more frequent counts. Meeting time varies with the season. Meet at Intramural Field 6 (coordinates: 29.714622, -95.402109), which is by Harris Gully and between the Tudor Field House and Wiess College. Park in the Moody Center Visitor Lot, which is accessed from the entrance to campus at the intersection of University Blvd and Stockton St. From the Moody Center parking lot, walk east along the paved road past Reckling baseball park to the intramural area. We begin at Harris Gully. From there, we will make a circuit around campus and end at the café at the Brochstein Pavilion. 

If you'd like to participate in the survey, please contact: Cin-Ty Lee at to be put on the mailing list. Our posted schedule is tentative and subject to updates.

Latest Report: January 14, 2020

Well, I really didn't think anyone would show up today because of the rains... but somehow, there were a few diehards. Janet Neath, my co-leader in chief Stuart Nelson, Annie Xu and Sarah Preston showed up and somehow the rain let up at exactly 7:30 AM. This was a day that we will never forget. We started off at Harris Gully looking at sparrows. Lincoln's, Fields, Chippings, Swamp... and then in the background, the Sedge, Marsh and House Wrens were calling. Flocks of waxwings and goldfinches were flying about.

But none of us were prepared to experience what would happen next. As we walked over to look at the thickets, beginning birder Annie Xu looked up and pointed at a bird flying down Main Street and asked what that was. We looked up, and it was a BROWN BOOBY!!! Mass pandemonium ensued. The bird flew by and then around the Methodist hospital, all of this taking only 5 seconds!

The Brown Booby continued to make rounds through the med center for the next 30-40 minutes, giving us all simply amazing views of this magical, majestic looking bird. During this time, we had texted a bunch of people. John O'Brien and Barbara Stern came by just in time to see the bird circle around a few times, and we were able to get many photos.

I've put the photos up on my blog with a little more detailed account of the craziness today. Lessons learned today. The more eyes, the better. Beginners can find some good birds! And rare birds show up in bad weather. Anything is possible it seems. There is not a day where I am not surprised by life on Earth. Both predictable and unpredictable. Mysterious and beautiful. Until next time, Jan 28...

-- Cin-Ty Lee

Previous survey reports are on my blog.

Background Information

228 species of birds have been recorded at Rice. It ranks as one of the top migrant traps in Harris County. At the right time of the year and with the right weather patterns, numerous migrating songbirds and sometimes migrating hawks and waders can be seen. For an urban environment, Rice stands out for the number of unusual birds that have shown up over the years. Oddities have included Wood Stork, Zone-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, American Woodcock, Virginia Rail, Vermilion Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Sprague’s Pipit, Bell’s Vireo, Cassin’s Vireo, Townsend’s Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Grasshopper Sparrow, LeConte’s Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Harris’s Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark.

The map below shows the meeting location. The coordinates are 29.714735, -95.402145 

  • Citgo
  • BP
  • Chevron Retiree Association
  • Land Sea & Sky
  • Shell Oil Company Foundation
  • Strabo Tours
  • Tropical Birding