Archive for the 'Birding' Category

The Secret Lives of Marsh Birds

Thursday, November 21st, 2019
Least Bittern

Least Bittern

This is Passport to Texas

Did you know there’s a secret gang of aviators hiding out on the Texas Coast?

They’re not often seen. They’re more often heard.

Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He’s talking about the secret life of Marsh Birds.

Marsh birds are typically thought of as species like Rails. A lot of other species that inhabit the marsh that are secretive as well, like some of the Bitterns, and they’re one that are very hard to monitor for because they spend time in habitats that you just can’t walk to or drive to. You have to be in a boat or trompin’ through the marsh.

The Marsh Bird population has steadily declined over the years primarily due to habitat loss. And while some species are doing good in Texas, their decreased population along other coastal regions may cause them to be federally protected.

There’s some species that have been proposed at the federal level, the Black Rail, as threatened. It seems to be doing quite well in Texas, but the population has declined significantly on the Eastern coast and so the more we can find out about that species the better we can provide better habitat for the rail.

Continuing to protect marsh habitats will be key to sustaining Marsh Bird populations in Texas.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Marsh Bird research in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

By Tim Lenz from Ithaca – Buff-breasted Sandpiper Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0

This is Passport to Texas

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a small tan colored shorebird that stops to refuel in Texas during its long journey North.

It’s a bird that is what we call a long-distance runner.

Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

It’s a migrant that winters in Argentina and breeds up in Alaska and Canada. And does that every year for maybe 10 to 15 years of its life. It’ll make that round trip journey every year.

But the distance traveled is not the only unique characteristic of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It’s preferred habitat in Texas may surprise you.

A shore bird is those little birds you see when you go visit the beach that are running around in the surf. But this guy fills a different niche. He’s not on the edge of water or the surf. He’s out in short grass areas. The key is, big chunks of real estate, varying amounts of water and mud, and just what people would think there’s nothing living out there, but clearly there are lots of invertebrates these shorebirds are going out there and consuming, they’re feeding on those.

Learn more about the birds of Texas on the Texas parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds Buff-breasted Sandpiper research in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Texas Christmas Bird Count 2019-2020

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

For Texas birders it is sheer delight now that the annual Christmas Bird Count is nearly in sight.

The Christmas Bird Count is a fantastic way for people to get involved in what we call citizen science. You can be a participant and help count birds during the Christmas season.

Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

There’s a three week window that straddles Christmas where teams go out at specific times for 24 hours in a specific 15 mile radius circle and count birds.

The Christmas Bird Count officially started in 1900. Even though it took a while for counts to get established in Texas, some bird counting circles in the state have been in existence for 60 years.

So how can you participate?

The first thing to do is find out if you live in or near a Christmas Count circle. The next step is to find the count compiler, that person who’s in charge of coordinating that circle and making sure that people are spread out and have a little piece of the pie and don’t double up on certain sites.

Find your nearest Christmas count circle at Audubon.org

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Great Comeback for Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Whooping crane pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas

The majestic Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and has a wingspan of seven and a half feet. But even with its impressive size, the Whooping Crane nearly became extinct, and in 1970 the bird was listed as an endangered species.

They are still federally listed as endangered. The population will be classified as such until they get around a thousand.

Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Once we get to that thousand population number the US Fish and Wildlife Service will readdress the status of the bird and potentially delist it. And that’s the ultimate goal is protect enough habitat and have enough birds that we can keep them off the list.

That habitat is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Due to massive conservation efforts over several years, the Whooping Crane population once in the teens, now number the hundreds.

The outlook for the Whooping Crane is very positive. Just through years of successful reproduction, good wintering habitat down here, they’re on their way to total recovery.

That’s good news, and validation that conversation and management of Whooping Cranes will ensure survival of the species.

Whooping cranes began their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV–Swift Saviors

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
Nesting chimney swift.

Nesting chimney swift.

This is Passport to Texas

Chaetura [KAY-tura] Canyon… is a chimney swift sanctuary of sorts, found in the growing city of Lakeway…just west of Austin.

Their numbers are declining dramatically, they’re down by probably fifty, sixty percent since the sixties here in the United States. And [in] Canada they are on the threatened and endangered list; they’ve lost ninety percent of their chimney swift population.

Paul and Georgeann Kyle, who oversee KAY-tura, say chimney swifts are unable to perch or stand upright, and so they rely on a type of habitat that’s been disappearing.

Historically they roosted in large hollow trees, and those are not allowed to stand anymore. They then moved into the brick chimney’s, but now most of those are aging and many are being capped or torn down.

In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we meet the Kyles, and learn how they’re helping to save these small, endearing black birds by building them towers for roosting and raising young.

The perfect home for Chimney swifts, it’s a nice rough surface, little grooves for them to hold on to, attach their nest. Ya basically anybody that can use a few power tools and read a tape measure can build one of these chimney swift towers and just one structure can make a real big difference in the breeding success of the birds.

Learn more about the Kyle’s work with chimney swifts the week of September 29 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.