Houston, Texas, is a bustling metropolis famous for its rich history, diverse culture, and thriving economy. But beyond the concrete jungle and skyscrapers, Houston is also home to an array of fascinating wild animals.
They are sure to captivate nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike no matter who they are. From birds to mammals, reptiles to amphibians, Houston boasts a surprising diversity of wildlife that is worth exploring. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most interesting wild animals that call Houston home.
The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is a large reptile that is native to Houston and can be found in various freshwater habitats, including swamps, marshes, and rivers. These prehistoric-looking creatures can grow up to 15 feet in length and are known for their impressive hunting skills.
Despite their fearsome reputation, American alligators are generally shy and avoid human contact. However, caution should always be exercised when encountering these wild animals in their natural habitat.
Northern Bobwhite Quail
The northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) is a popular game bird that can be found in the grasslands and open woodlands of Houston. Known for its distinct “bob-white” call, this small, plump bird is highly valued for its delicious meat and is a favorite among hunters.
The Northern Bobwhite quail is also known for its elaborate courtship displays, where males puff up their chests, raise their crests, and strut to attract females. Spotting a group of these beautiful birds scurrying through the grass or taking flight is a thrilling sight for birdwatchers.
Eastern Screech Owl
The eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) is a small, nocturnal bird of prey that is commonly found in the wooded areas of Houston. These elusive owls are known for their distinctive calls, which include trills, whinnies, and screeches, that can be heard echoing through the night.
Eastern Screech Owls are expert hunters, feeding on a diet of insects, small mammals, and birds. With their striking appearance and mysterious nocturnal habits, encountering an Eastern Screech Owl in the wild is a true treat for nature enthusiasts.
The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is a unique mammal that is native to the Houston area. These armored creatures are known for their leathery shell-like skin and ability to roll into a ball when threatened, providing them with excellent defense against predators.
Nine-banded armadillos are primarily insectivorous, using their keen sense of smell to sniff out insects, small vertebrates, and plant material. Despite their relatively small size, they are excellent diggers and can create complex burrows for shelter.
The Houston toad (Anaxyrus houstonensis) is a critically endangered amphibian species that is found only in a few scattered locations in and around Houston. These small toads are known for their unique appearance, with warty skin and distinct markings that help them blend in with their surroundings.
The Houston Toad spends much of its life underground, emerging during the breeding season to lay eggs in temporary pools. Due to habitat loss and other factors, the Houston Toad population has significantly declined, making sightings of this rare amphibian a special occurrence.
The reddish egret (Egretta rufescens) is a large wading bird that can be found in the coastal marshes and estuaries of Houston. Known for their striking appearance and unique feeding behavior, Reddish Egrets are a treat to observe in the wild. They have a distinctive shaggy appearance, with a combination of gray and rusty-red feathers, and a slender, graceful build.
What sets them apart is their feeding behavior, which includes an energetic and flamboyant dance-like display to scare fish out of the water. They use their wings to create shade, reducing glare and making it easier to spot prey. Their unique foraging behavior, combined with their stunning appearance, makes Reddish Egrets a popular species to observe for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in Houston.
The Coyote (Canis latrans) is a highly adaptable and elusive mammal that can be found in various habitats in and around Houston, including urban areas. These medium-sized canines are known for their opportunistic feeding behavior and ability to thrive in diverse environments.
Coyotes are primarily nocturnal and are known for their distinctive vocalizations, including howls and yips, which can often be heard echoing through the night in Houston’s wild spaces. Observing these clever and resourceful animals in their natural habitat can provide insight into their behavior and their ability to adapt to urban environments.
The roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) is a stunning wading bird that lives in the coastal marshes and estuaries of Houston. With their striking appearance, unique pink coloration, and distinctive spoon-like bill, they are a sight to behold.
Their feeding behavior involves using their bills to sweep through shallow water. They feed on small fish, crustaceans, and insects. Observing these elegant and flamboyant birds in their natural habitat is a highlight for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts in Houston.
Where Exactly in Houston Are They?
1. Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
This nature center is located within Memorial Park and features several walking trails through wooded areas, wetlands, and meadows. It is home to various bird species, including herons, egrets, and woodpeckers, as well as deer, rabbits, and squirrels.
2. Buffalo Bayou Park
This urban park located along the Buffalo Bayou offers opportunities to observe wildlife such as turtles, ducks, and various bird species, including hawks and owls. The park also has several walking and biking trails that provide a chance to spot wildlife while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
3. Brazos Bend State Park
About an hour’s drive from Houston, Brazos Bend State Park is a popular destination for wildlife observation. The park is home to a wide variety of animals, including alligators, deer, bobcats, and numerous bird species. It has several hiking trails and boardwalks that allow visitors to get close to the wildlife in their natural habitats.
4. Houston Zoo
While not a natural habitat, the Houston Zoo is a popular place to observe wildlife from around the world. The zoo is home to over 6,000 animals from different continents, including elephants, lions, giraffes, and many more. It offers educational exhibits and programs that provide insights into the diverse wildlife on our planet.
5. Armand Bayou Nature Center
Southeast of Houston, Armand Bayou Nature Center is a vast nature preserve that spans over 2,500 acres of wetlands, forests, and prairies. It is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, snakes, and various bird species. The center offers guided nature walks, boat tours, and educational programs that provide opportunities to observe wildlife up close.
6. Houston Audubon’s Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary
This 17-acre nature sanctuary in the heart of Houston offers several walking trails that provide opportunities for birdwatching. It is home to a variety of bird species, including migratory birds, rabbits, squirrels, and butterflies.
7. Bayou Wildlife Zoo
Just south of Houston, Bayou Wildlife Zoo is a unique opportunity to observe exotic wildlife from around the world. It is a safari-like setting near a sprawling city. Visitors can take a tram ride through the park and see animals such as zebras, giraffes, kangaroos, and many more up close.
Houston is not just a concrete jungle famous for its rockets. It is also a thriving ecosystem and home to a diverse array of fascinating wild animals. From reptiles to mammals, birds to amphibians, Houston’s wildlife offers a wealth of opportunities for observation, appreciation, and conservation.
Whether a nature enthusiast, wildlife photographer, or someone who enjoys exploring the outdoors, you will love it. Houston’s wild wonders are sure to captivate your imagination and provide a deeper appreciation for natural wonders.