AUSTIN — With peak boating season around the corner, Texans recreating on the coast are likely to spot iconic coastal birds like brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, black skimmers and reddish egrets nesting in dense colonies, called rookeries, which can consist of thousands of birds and a multitude of other species on barrier islands and smaller islands in Texas bays. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is encouraging Texas boaters and anglers to watch out for these nesting birds while on the coast, so they aren’t disturbed during this sensitive time.
“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,” says Trey Barron, a Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “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.”
Colonial nesting waterbirds, whose nests, eggs and chicks are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and by Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, typically nest from late February through August. The islands in which the birds nest are often tiny, including spoil islands, and may only appear as large sandbars. This puts them at a greater risk of encountering people as recreational use by coastal anglers, boaters, birdwatchers, and wildlife photographers, among others, is highest. Of the 25 or so species considered to be colonial nesting waterbirds in Texas, over half are experiencing major population declines.
These birds, and their habitats, are valuable to Texas. Black skimmers, the species featured as the logo for the TPWD Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail