Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Creatures of the night




I recently attended a talk on ‘Creatures of the Night’ by Gary and Kathy Clark.

Here’s a few interesting things about local critters you might not know. 80%-95% of all Ruby Throated Hummingbirds come through Houston on their migration south in the fall. That is the massive crowd we see coming through in Sept. Rocky mountain hummingbirds winter over down here. During very cold nights they go into a tupor state to survive the cold.

Owls are very intelligent birds and totally evolved for night living. Their large eyes can take in more light than most birds. Owl’s eyes are fixed in the sockets and don’t move as ours do, which is probably why they can turn their heads so far. They can focus on things near and far simultaneously. The beaks are recessed and the the face is parabolic shaped, better to send sound to those large ears of theirs. Their ears are not symmetrically placed, one is further forward than the other, the better to triangulate sound. Great horned, barn owls and screech owls are common in this part of Houston. To find them sleeping during the day look on branches of trees, very close to the trunks.

Night hawks can be found here in parking lots, on or near the lights at dusk.

Raccoons live in hollowed out logs and under decks. They are diurnal so you’ll see them both day and night. One of the most unusual things about raccoons is that they wash their food. It appears they may also have liberal leanings, I’m told a good way to remove them from you attic or from under your deck is to force them to listen to talk radio.

We have grey foxes here. Foxes will eat just about anything; carrion, small critters and fruit and vegetables. We also have coyotes, they too eat anything including carrion, critters, fruits and vegetables. As do skunks, who knew all these creatures where omnivores? Skunks mating season is Feb. down here which is why we find and smell them so much more at that time of year.

I spent four years in Texas before I saw a live armadillo. We finally ran across a live one at the edge of the woods in Brazo’s Bend Park a few months back. They are also day and night critters and are found rooting in leave mixtures in the woods. Now that I know better where to look I’m hoping to spot more of them.
Moths and butterflies are pretty much the same insects, with butterflies ruling the day and moths the night. Often though moths do not have mouths. Once they reach moth stage they live only to reproduce and die. Moths also tend to have feathered antennae.

See also:
Hummingbird time
Bats
Butterfly gardening