Rookery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

The rookery in the middle of Dallas – on the campus of UT Southwestern Medical School – is busy this time of year. I was there a little over a week ago and the egrets (mostly Great Egrets but some Snowy Egrets as well) were numerous and somewhat acclimated to people watching them. When we first arrived, there was a Great Egret on the ground retrieving a stick to enlarge the nest. And then we looked up in the trees and saw a lot of birds. I noticed the trees from the window of one of the nearby medical buildings where I’d taken my mother for a doctor’s appoint on a rainy day earlier in the week…and the birds were big enough to be noticeable from across the street. I’d worked in the area early in my career (about 45 years ago now!) and there had been lots of talk of cutting down the trees to expand the medical school; the protests back then saved the birds’ nesting area. The rookery has probably been there since the levies were built along the Trinity River and the trees cut down between the levies. The location of the rookery is not far outside the levies and has been active since the 1940s at least.

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There is a lot of bird interaction. I took this series that shows how spiky the feathers on the head can look. Were these Great Egrets having an argument over nest configuration?

Preening is also important for all the gorgeous breeding plumage.

There are Snowy Egrets around too – yellow around the eyes and yellow ‘socks’ on their feet. They are smaller than the Great Egrets but the distinctive features are easy to spot as well. They seemed relatively calmer than the bigger birds on the day I was there.

The Great Egrets provided the best portrait opportunities – with the tree and then zoomed in to almost fill the frame.

Sometimes they sit at the very top of the tree. Are they in sentinel mode when they do? Or maybe they are getting ready to fly out above the traffic and medical buildings and levy…to the river in search of fish for lunch. Soon the eggs will hatch, and the adults will be busy finding enough to feed the chicks.

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There is a small parking area on Campus (off UT Southwestern Drive) and a paved walkway back to a memorial area with a bench – perfect for people that want to enjoy the birds but not walk very far. There is also a loop mulch path that I’ll try next time I am in Dallas in the springtime. There are a lot of birds there from March through May…and some year-round residents. But the egrets – Great and Snow are the most numerous of the birds this time of year.

National Aviary (Pittsburgh) – continued

When we first arrived at the National Aviary, we were hurrying back to the Atrium to get food. I went back later to take pictures of the Eagle Owl (sitting just over a heater in its outdoor enclosure),

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The Stellar’s Sea Eagle (seemingly focused on something other than the cold and the crowds on the other side of the glass), and

A roadrunner (my son-in-law was drawing this birds attention – not sure how) in the exhibit with the sloth and toucan.

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We also went outside the Condor Court. The Condors were not well positioned for pictures but the two Snowy Owls looked comfortable in their enclosure…they’re adapted to cold.


The Grasslands Exhibit has a lot of smaller fast-moving birds. I managed to capture a few of them even in the low light. At least two had very long tails.

The Tropical Rainforest Exhibit was my favorite during a previous visit, but it was too crowded this time and the cloudy (and snowy) day meant that the skylights provided poor lighting for photography. We were there for the bird feeding….and I noticed one bird that was the same as in the Wetland Exhibit.