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Houston Metro Area, Katy, Parks & Outdoor

Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, TX

Turkey vultures in Mary Jo Peckham Park
Posted: May 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

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A Day in the Park

Come along with us on one day’s journey into the Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, Texas where several different types of birds happened to be spotted and photographed on one fine sunny and warm day.

Katy, Texas is located a few miles to the west of Houston and is an area that is growing by leaps and bounds as the population in and around Houston keeps expanding. It is a relatively flat area and used to be the site of many rice farms. Old rice dryers still punctuate the landscape.

The small lake within the park is an attraction to different types of birds. I photographed five different kinds of birds as my hubby, and I enjoyed discovering this great park made for kids of all ages.

Pair of turkey vultures

Pair of turkey vultures

Turkey Vultures

All of these photos taken while visiting Mary Jo Peckham Park on the day of my husband’s and my very first visit to the park show juvenile turkey vultures.

When they get a bit older, their head turns from the dark grey to light black color shown here to a shade of red. I have never personally seen so many vultures gathered together in one place, but after researching and learning more about them, it is quite common as they are very social birds. When searching for a place for a daytime nap or overnight, they are often found in large communal groupings.

The ones pictured here all seemed to be getting along well with one another even mingling at times with the other ducks sharing the same spaces when the ducks were out of the water.

Lineup of turkey vultures

A lineup of turkey vultures

Turkey vultures come from the raptor category of birds and are commonly referred to as buzzards. They perform an essential function in cleaning up our highways, fields and other places as they feed on dead animals. If you notice, their heads do not have feathers which facilitate their delving deep into the body of a deceased animal to feed upon its flesh.

While they seek out their food by sight, they primarily find it by smell. These birds have a very keen sense of smell!

As the video below explains, when they spread out their wings, it may be for different purposes. One purpose is to appear larger and more intimidating if frightened.

I do not think that was the case when I caught several of them doing that as they were not even facing me when I was photographing them. It was more likely that the birds were doing it to let the rays of the sun and the wind help rid them of parasites.

Nature is wonderful! While the subject of what turkey vultures choose to eat might not sound appetizing, think of what our planet would be like if it were not for these raptor cleaning machines!

Resting Muscovy Duck in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Resting Muscovy Duck in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Muscovy Ducks

There were numerous Muscovy ducks in Mary Jo Peckham Park also on the day of our visit. They were pretty easy to identify as to the type of duck because of their distinctive caruncles. Caruncles are pinkish to red colored lumpy looking fleshy outgrowths appearing from behind their eyes and extending towards their bill.

One photo shows a black and white Muscovy duck.

Muscovy duck on rock

Muscovy duck on a rock

Most of them in this park had the brownish to black looking feathers on their underside topped off with the most beautiful iridescent green to shades of blue and even purple feathering on their top and sides with patches of white showing on their wings. Muscovy ducks do come in a wide variety of other colors.

This type of duck eats everything from seeds and other plants to small fish, amphibians, insects and the like. Muscovy ducks have been domesticated and used as a food source, but there are also wild Muscovy ducks.

The habitat in Mary Jo Peckham Park is perfect for these and the other ducks because of the environment. It consists of the small lake, trees and other grounds conducive to offering shelter as well as a good source of food.

According to Wikipedia, these ducks like to roost in trees at night, and there were plentiful trees in this park. They can also sleep while floating on the water…so these birds have a choice as both exist within this Katy, Texas park.

Two green headed male Mallard ducks and company

Two green-headed male Mallard ducks and company

Mallard Ducks

The photo above shows several male Mallard ducks with their distinctive crowning glory of those beautiful green feathered heads.

In the same photo, a female Mallard duck is on the far right side. She has the typical brown stripe that runs from behind her eye and through her eye towards her bill. Her coloration is a mottled brown and white as compared to her more flamboyantly multi-hued male friends.

Mallards are wild ducks, and most are migratory. They are omnivorous eating a wide variety of plant and animal sources of food. They typically do not dive underwater for their food but graze on the surface of water thus fitting the classification of a dabbling duck.

My parents once visited the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and saw the Mallard ducks that parade through the lobby of the hotel on a regular schedule. They are quite a tourist attraction!

Pekin & Mallard Ducks in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Pekin & Mallard Ducks in Mary Jo Peckham Park

American Pekin Duck

The pretty solid white ducks with yellow beaks or bills are domesticated ducks most often raised for food. They are also called Long Island ducks.

Pekin ducks are very social animals and intermingle with other ducks as can be seen in these photos.

American Purple Gallinule

I had personally never spotted an American purple gallinule bird previous to our visit to the Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy. It was exciting to be able to capture a couple of photos and then find out what type of bird it was.

Purple Gallinule in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Purple Gallinule in Mary Jo Peckham Park

These birds have very long yellow legs and feet and are lightweight enough to be able to walk on lily pads as they search for food.

American purple gallinule in Mary Jo Peckham Park

American purple gallinule in Mary Jo Peckham Park

They eat a wide variety of things in their diet as they are also omnivorous birds. People in the lower reaches of Florida are familiar with spotting these American purple gallinule birds since they are regular residents in that part of the state. They like marshy tropical areas in which to breed.

The distinctive coloration of an adult bird such as the one I got to photograph is quite beautiful and unique.

Photo of American purple gallinule Source: By Jerzystrzelecki (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of American purple gallinule Source: By Jerzystrzelecki (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Some facts regarding these five types of birds:

Turkey vulture
Muscovy duck
Mallard duck
Pekin duck
American purple gallinule
Primarily eats carrion
Omnivorous but often fed with pellets if farm raised
Widespread habitats
Found in the Americas, Canada, New Zealand, Australia & parts of Europe
Widespread habitats
Originally from China and bred from mallards, but domesticated and commercially raised in the U.S.
Most often found in southeastern U.S., Central America, the Caribbean & northern South America
Generally hatches 2 eggs
Lays 8 to 16 eggs
Lays 8 to 13 eggs
Lays up to 200 eggs annually
Lays 5 to 10 eggs
Weighs 1.8 to 5.1 pounds
Weighs 6 to 18 pounds
Weighs 1.6 to 3.5 pounds
Weighs 8 to 11 pounds
Weighs 5 to 10.8 ounces

Location of Mary Jo Peckham Park: 5597 Gardenia Ln., Katy, Texas 77493.

Feather on ground in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Feather on the ground in Mary Jo Peckham Park

Learn much more about the Mary Jo Peckham Park in the video below.





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