Category Archives: NatNotes

Hunting as population management

Many hunters dream of harvesting a trophy buck. While people hunt for a variety of reasons, including food, tradition, spending time with family, connecting with nature, and seeking that trophy buck, the role of hunting in deer population management is sometimes overlooked. In particular, some hunters do not realize the importance of harvesting does to maintain balanced sex ratios. “Sex ratio” refers to a comparison of the number of males in a population to the number of females. As with most mammals, the sex ratio of white-tailed deer… Read More →

Notes about Nighthawks

What’s in a name? Although most wildlife names are pretty straightforward (white-tailed deer have white tails, northern bobwhites say their name), others can be misleading. This post is about nighthawks, which are fascinating birds that are not at all related to hawks! Unlike hawks, which are classified together with other large, diurnal birds of prey, nighthawks are part of a group of birds that eat insects and are most active at night. Other birds in the same family as nighthawks have equally fascinating names, including nightjar, chuck-will’s-widow, whip-poor-will,… Read More →

Notes about Rattlesnakes

Show of hands — who likes rattlesnakes? Many people who spend time on rangelands strongly dislike this particular type of wildlife. Just like all wildlife, though, rattlesnakes have their place in the ecosystem. Next question: who likes rats? Who likes disease? Controlling pest populations is an important ecosystem service provided by rattlesnakes. Small mammals are the #1 prey of rattlesnakes, so rattlesnakes keep rodent populations in check which in turn can reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases carried by rodents. Unlike other venomous snakes, rattlesnakes will often alert… Read More →

Turkey roosts

In honor of Independence Day, today’s post is about turkeys, which were almost chosen as the national bird of the United States. Rio Grande wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) are the most common turkey species in Texas. A critical habitat component for turkeys is a place to roost. While all birds roost, not all do so communally. Turkeys roost communally, meaning that every night, a group of turkeys gather together to rest in a particular area. Other than nesting hens, which roost on the ground, Rio Grande wild turkeys roost… Read More →

Deer and Quail and Turkey… oh my!

Setting goals for wildlife management helps you focus your efforts on tasks that will benefit the species you want on your land. But what if you are interested in having multiple species on your land? Wildlife occur naturally in communities, which are groups of species that use similar habitat. When you manage for any native species, you are also benefiting other species with similar habitat requirements. For example, “crazy quilt” habitat for quail benefits many species of songbirds that need a mixture of open grassy areas and brush…. Read More →

Beep beep! Notes about roadrunners

Hopefully, you already know that the call of greater roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus) isn’t actually “beep beep.” But do you know what roadrunners actually eat? How about where they live? Like many wildlife species, roadrunners are the subject of several “myths.” One of the goals of NatNotes is to provide accurate information about Texas rangelands and wildlife in a brief, easy-to-read manner. So today, let’s do a fact check on roadrunners! Roadrunners have been blamed by some as a factor in the decline of northern bobwhite quail. While it… Read More →

Nature’s Bug Zappers

Summer in Texas has some upsides and some downsides. One downside, many Texans agree, is the abundance of insects that flourish in the heat, swarming our picnics, backyard parties, and campfires. Now imagine if, across the state, we had billions more insects than we already do. If this sounds awful to you, then thank a bat! Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), which are just one of 33 native bats in Texas, remove an estimated 6,600 to 8,800 tons of insects annually in the state. That’s over 13 million pounds… Read More →

Quail buffet line

What do you think of when you think of a quail buffet? Perhaps you think this is a reference to supplemental feeding, but today’s post is about increasing the amount of forage for quail without supplemental feeding. The buffet line in this post refers to a disked strip of land. Disking promotes the growth of forbs such as western ragweed, partidge pea, and croton, which are all good food sources for northern bobwhite quail. Not only are the forbs themselves eaten by quail, but the insects that eat forbs… Read More →

Coyote Love is in the Air

As we approach Valentines Day, the thoughts of many humans turn towards romance, flowers, chocolates, and time spent with an amorous partner. Curiously enough, many human children are born 9 months after Valentines Day…. A similar tale is told for many medium-sized mammals around this time of year. A drive down any Texas highway will yield the odorous testimony that skunks are on the move. Foxes, too, and yes, coyotes. Curiously enough, Valentine’s Day is situated near the peak of breeding season for coyotes, along with many other… Read More →

Grazing for Wildlife–the Importance of Bovines to Habitat

A recent research project in Europe aims to reintroduce the auroch–the wild ancestor of modern cattle–to European habitats. The auroch was an impressive animal, somewhat resembling today’s Spanish fighting bulls, that lived in the woodlands of Europe until 1627, when the last animal died in Poland. Extinct for centuries, a breeding program is working backwards to resurrect the auroch from domestic cattle–unlocking their wild genes, if you will. If you want, read more here. Now, that’s well and good for Europe. In Texas, we long ago worked to… Read More →