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  • Chris Belcher

Who Are the Birds of the Brackenridge Park Rookery?

The City of San Antonio is fighting a war against the birds of the Brackenridge Park Rookery in an ongoing five-year battle between the city and the birds.

On one side is the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and the San Antonio Zoo. On the other side is a group of migratory birds that flocks to the park in the spring to build nests and raise their young.

Who are the birds that migrate into the rookery in the trees along the banks of the San Antonio River? They are the Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and Cormorant.

The Egrets

The Great Egret is the largest of the Egrets who call Brackenridge Park Rookery home. Tall, white and with green skin near its eyes during breeding season the Great Egret is easy to spot in the trees and flying along the San Antonio River.

A Great Egret flies up to a tree in the Brackenridge Park Rookery with a stick to build its nest, April 8. Photo: Chris Belcher

The Snowy Egret is a smaller white egret. You can see it wading in the river hunting for prey. Using its foot to stir silt and make prey move so it can capture a meal.

A Snowy Egret catches a crawfish in the San Antonio River along the Lambert Beach section of Brackenridge Park March 14. Photo: Chris Belcher

The Cattle Egret is native to Africa but migrated to the United States in the late 1950s. It has striking reddish-gold plumage on its head and breast during the breeding season. It’s called the Cattle Egret because it’s often found hunting insects alongside grazing cattle.

A Cattle Egret perches in a tree in the Brackenridge Park Rookery April 8. Photo: Chris Belcher

The Herons

The Little Blue Heron is the smallest of the herons in the rookery. It’s blue feathers and beak are a beautiful sight. It hunts by wading in the river looking for prey.

A Little Blue Heron hunts for prey in the San Antonio River near Brackenridge Park's Joske Pavilion April 8. Photo: Chris Belcher

The Tri-colored Heron is the largest heron in the rookery. It is also the least common heron in the rookery.

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is a fierce looking water bird with black, white, and yellow coloration on its head. It stares intently into the water of the San Antonio River looking for prey darting its head forward swiftly to capture and make a meal of it.

A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron watches for prey in the San Antonio River from the wall along the bank in Brackenridge Park March 30. Photo: Chris Belcher

The Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant can be seen in the trees of the rookery, along the bank of the river, and swimming in the water searching for prey. Their low in the water with their head and skinny neck above the surface until they dive down into the water to hunt and capture their prey.

A Double-crested Cormorant dries its wings while standing on a tree branch above the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park March 14. Photo: Chris Belcher

The city’s war against the birds continues. Park employees clapping two boards together, mylar balloons looking like giant eyes in the trees, and pyrotechnics are being used against the birds. San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department outlined the use of these tactics in the “Brackenridge Park Migratory Birds” as “Phase II: Deterrent Techniques.”

According to the pamphlet published February 2022, “The second phase of the project should discourage birds from roosting by persuading them to roost elsewhere. The methods used to disperse birds may include: pyrotechnics, lasers, spotlight, distress calls, effigies, mylar balloons, and drones.”

Only time will tell if the City of San Antonio is successful in persuading the birds to relocate. We’ll continue to report on this story throughout nesting season and update you on the status of the combatants.


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