Bird Battles: As North American bird population decreases, SPI Birding and Nature Center aiming to educate the public on birds


Special to the PRESS

The view from the the South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary (SPIBNC&AS). Photo by Laura Lyles Reagan.

On September 19, 2019, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a journal report by Kenneth V. Rosenberg, et al., that states there has been a 29% decline in bird populations in North America, since 1970.

News outlets across the nation picked up the report. The South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary (SPIBNC&AS) knew instantly due to their membership in World Birding Centers and E-bird, an online network for reporting bird sightings.

“All I can say is that with these new numbers that have come out, it makes our mission at the birding and nature center even more important as we continue to educate people about the importance of protecting our wildlife and provide habitat for our shore birds and migrators,” says Alita Bagley, President of the Board of Directors of the SPINC&AS.

The mission of the South Padre Island Birding Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary is to educate the public about birds of South Padre Island and its environs: the flora, fauna and the natural environment of South Padre Island, the Laguna Madre Coastal area, with an emphasis on conservation and environmental awareness.

Javier Gonzalez, SPI Birding Naturalist says, “It’s sad to learn how much birds are struggling. Birds have it harder than ever this day and age. They face so many challenges because of decreasing habitat and increasing toxins.”

One of the aims of the SPIBNC&GS is to educate visitors about our special coastal resident birds as well as a myriad of species that migrate through our area.

Gonzalez further shared, “Awareness is key. Once you learn about them and appreciate them. The will to conserve them follows. But first you have to notice more than ever people need to notice the life around them and learn how nature works.”

“The majority of the population can’t identify at least five common birds in their area. We are working to change that,” declares Gonzalez.

Annual bird counting efforts by organized citizen researchers such as the Coastal Tip Christmas Bird Count have collected data over a forty-year period. That data does not show a decrease in overall counts but Gonzalez shares that it could be due to improved data collection methods and more knowledgeable volunteers and not necessarily stable populations of birds. Gonzalez will head the Coastal Tip Christmas Bird Count for 2019.

He cautions that birds have many challenges as human population, development, and industry
increases in our area affects, disturbs or threatens their habitats. According to Gonzalez, birds have fewer and fewer places to go to meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, and healthy nesting sites. Some birds require specific habitat which is threatened or destroyed. Only 5 percent of the South Texas has thorn forest.

Editor’s Note: Reporter, Laura Lyles Reagan facilitated the SPIBNC&AS strategic planning session and writes grants for the organization.

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