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Bird Surveys

Rice University Bird Survey

Leaders: Cin-Ty Lee and Mark Kulstad

Bi-Weekly Census on Tuesday Mornings
Next survey: August 27, 2019

We're conducting a biweekly census on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. During migration periods, we may schedule more frequent counts. Meet at 7:00 AM in Intramural Field 6, which is 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: July 23, 2019

We ran our Houston Audubon - Rice University bird survey again today. I was joined by Stuart Nelson, Mary Grace and Dennis Hamill, Janet Neath and others. Urban birding in mid July is almost never very exciting, but a cold front passed through. Add to this slightly overcast conditions, we had 79 F degree weather this morning, making for a most pleasant stroll.

We started off again at Harris Gully and eventually made our way towards the oak and azalea grove at the front of campus, near Huff house. As expected, bird life was low at this time of the year, but we still enjoyed the Blue Jays, House Finches, and White-winged Doves moving about at Harris Gully. Our eyes strayed at times to the low ground as we looked for insects. Although we were not here for the insects, at some level, birding is just as much about the bugs as the birds. After all, the bugs are what many birds eat. We encountered many dragonflies, the most striking being the Roseate Skimmers, which are passing through right now. A Common Buckeye butterfly flew low over the sedges, giving us all great views.

After Harris Gully, we wandered over to Huff house, sharing each of our insights on how to build sustainable habitats, how to restore all the natural components and connections within an ecosystem, even in the disturbed ones we have in our urban areas. Just as we passed Cohen House, a medium sized, dark raptor with slender, pointed wings appeared out of nowhere through the canopy of the oaks. There is only one raptor with this shape - Mississippi Kite! Thankfully, the kite circled overhead for several minutes allowing us to get photo documentation. While flocks of Mississippi Kites migrate over in the spring and fall, we have never had one at Rice in the summer. Upon close inspection, we realized it was carrying prey in its mouth, which turned out to be a cicada. Mississippi Kites are known for preying on insects, picking them off the tops of trees. Could this kite have summered here or even nested in the wooded neighborhoods just north of campus? There are active nests not too far from here along Buffalo Bayou.

I continue to be amazed that there is never a dull moment in nature. Even when it seems like you've seen it all, there's always something new. I am not sure, but I think this is how to stay young forever.

Our next birdwalk will be Aug 27. We will skip Aug 13 as I am tied up that day unless one of you can run it.

Photos of the kite are on my blog: Down to Earth Questions. You can also find my previous survey reports on my blog.
-- Cin-Ty Lee

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.