Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   




Help Protect Coastal Bird Nurseries

Iconic coastal birds like brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, black skimmers and reddish egrets build nests, lay eggs and raise their young in colonies on small, inshore islands along our Texas Gulf Coast. These rookeries often support thousands of birds that utilize all available island habitat.

More than half of Texas’ colonial waterbirds are experiencing major population declines. Everyone who spends time on the coast — boaters and anglers, photographers and paddlers — can help support these colonial waterbird nurseries, which are particularly sensitive to human disturbances.

“When approached too closely by boaters or people wading nearby, birds are frightened off their nests, leaving eggs and chicks exposed to rapidly overheat in the summer sun and allowing opportunistic predators like gulls and grackles to quickly swoop in and feed on them,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife Department diversity biologist Trey Barron. “With too many disturbances, an entire colony of thousands of birds may abandon an island and give up on breeding for the year. Over time, this can potentially lead to drastic population declines.”

Island-nesting birds typically nest from late February through August when recreational use by coastal anglers and boaters is highest, putting them at greater risk of coming into contact with people.

Help avoid nest disturbances by fishing, swimming and playing at least 50 yards away from rookery islands, especially from February through August.

“The habitats that waterbirds use are the same habitats in which we enjoy fishing, hunting and photographing wildlife,” Barron says. “We just have to remember to give them their space, especially during the nesting season. We can all enjoy the same places as long as we do it responsibly.”

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