Overwintering Wildlife at Jones Park

By Matthew Abernathy, Assistant Director

Now that winter is here, the days are shorter, temperatures are lower, and many plants have died back. While some animals migrate south or enter a hibernation-like state called brumation, others remain active. Jones Park features plenty of wildlife to see throughout the winter. So next time you visit the park, look out for these five types of visitors.

1. White-tailed Deer
White-tailed deer are one of our most common mammals found year-round in Jones Park and the surrounding areas. When vegetation is scarce in the winter, they tend to become less cautious and more visible as they forage and as bucks search for mates.

2. Woodpeckers
Jones Park is home to more than 200 bird species, including seven different species of woodpeckers. Two of the seven species, the yellow-bellied sapsucker and northern flicker, only visit in the winter. Red-headed, red-bellied, pileated, downy, and hairy woodpeckers can be found throughout the year, though the hairy woodpecker is extremely rare.

3. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar waxwings are a winter visitor to the region. They travel in flocks and are usually easily identified by a bright yellow tip on their tail and the brilliant red, waxy feather tips on their wings. They also have a feather crest on their head, and their call is a high-pitched whistle.
They love fruits and berries and will regularly mob native shrubs like yaupon holly. Those that linger in the park until spring also enjoy mulberries as they ripen.

4. Squirrels
While squirrels are found year-round throughout the region, winter can be an excellent time to get a better look at them. With some food sources less abundant, they are more likely to come to backyard feeders or expand their foraging areas. Leafless trees make it easier to see these playful mammals as they move through the canopy. Keep an eye out for all three species: the eastern gray squirrel, the eastern fox squirrel, and the secretive southern flying squirrel.

5. Reptiles and Amphibians
Although their activity is limited by lower temperatures, reptiles and amphibians do not truly hibernate in Texas because of our mild climate. Instead, they enter a state of near hibernation called brumation. Whether it is a mild winter or just a few warm days in a row, higher daytime temperatures mean that these animals become more active. Look for turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders around the ponds even on chilly days, and find snakes and lizards soaking up warmth from the sun in open areas or on the trails.