Home » 2011 » August

Birds Roost in Trees at Night

My favorite sign from a recent trip to Austin, TX. A local humor writer once quipped that the Great-tailed Grackle should be the official bird of Austin, and huge roosts in parking lot trees are a big part of living in that city. This was a warning sign in a hotel parking lot. There was more than just words on that sign to give warning!

Walmart to the rescue

Walmart may turn out to be the biggest protector of urban wildlife habitat yet. Check out the latest Walmart efforts, involving $500,000 in grants to projects in DC, Chicago, NYC, and LA. Walmart’s Acres for America program has already protected over 625,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Birds on Buildings

What are they doing up there? Check out my latest online article on birds on buildings, and what to do about them when they are causing trouble.

Urban Beach Birds

When we think of urban birds, we usually think of pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows. Maybe some robins, crows, and gulls. Urban bird habitats might be parks, or yards. But pretty much any habitat can be urbanized–including beaches, as my quick trip over to Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY revealed today.

In addition to this pigeon, I saw dozens of Laughing Gulls and Common Terns, a few American Oystercatchers, and other beach birds–all within a stone’s throw of buildings, amusement park rides, and thousands of beach goers.

The star of the day was the Gray-hooded Gull, a Southern Hemisphere bird hanging out on the Coney Island beach this past week–only the second one reported from North America.

For birders, a mega-rarity like this is sure to draw a crowd. But while enjoying the rarity show, it is good to take a moment to consider how urbanization is creating a whole new class of urban birds–beach and sea birds that have to adapt to a heavy human presence when we take over and build on their home turf. It is a reminder that all birds can be urban birds–from the most rare and specialized to the most common and mundane. As cities take over the beaches, it falls to urban planners and urban residents to ensure a bright future for these beach birds.

New Urban Bird Treaty Cities in U.S.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in July that it will award 10 U.S. cities with a total of $650,000 in funding to develop bird conversation projects.

The following new Urban Bird Treaty Cities will each receive a grant of up to $70,000:
Phoenix, AZ
Kennedale, TX
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
Indianapolis, IN
Opelika, AL
Hartford, CT
Ogden, UT
Lewistown, MT
San Francisco, CA
Washington D.C.

Existing Urban Bird Treaty Cities will also each receive a $10,000 grant. Those cities are Chicago, Houston, Portland, St. Louis, Nashville, Anchorage, Philadelphia (view treaty) and New York.

The funding is being awarded as part of the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds program. Administered by FWS, the program brings together private citizens, federal, state and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations to conserve migratory birds through educational programs, participation in citizen science, conversation and habitat improvement strategies and reducing hazards to birds in urban and suburban areas.

The Urban Bird Treaty cities and their partners develop and implement bird conservation projects and provide matching dollars and in-kind support. The Service provides the challenge grants and technical assistance. The cities and their partners also work to increase awareness of the value of migratory birds and their habitats, especially for their intrinsic, ecological, recreational, and economic significance. The wide variety of native birds thriving in urban areas underscores the importance of these urban/suburban habitats to the survival of many bird populations.

“Birds are a critical component of every ecosystem and serve as an excellent indicator of the overall health of the environment,” said Jerome Ford, the Service’s Assistant Director for Migratory Birds. “Creating green space in urban environments, landscaping with native plants in backyards and parks, adopting architecture and lighting systems that reduce collisions and keeping pets indoors can provide great benefits to birds, while also creating more livable communities.”

The Urban Conservation Treaty Program started in 1999 when New Orleans became the first city to establish an Urban Conservation Treaty. New Urban Bird Treaty cities are joining a program with already more than 200 partners in nine cities committed to conserving, protecting and restoring habitat, and educating urban residents on the importance of migratory birds.

More information available online at the Urban Bird Treaty Program website and the Urban Conservation Treaty For Migratory Birds Handbook (pdf).