Written by April Zimpel, Houston Zoo Bird Keeper and Member of the Jiminy Frigates.
Right now, during the Great Texas Birding Classic, we are searching for shorebirds at Bolivard Flats, Rollover Pass and Cameron County Beach! This is our last chance to increase our count numbers significantly!
Keep watching the Houston Zoo blogs, Twitter feed and Facebook to see how the Jiminy Frigates is doing in their quest to find as many bird species as possible in 24 hours for the Great Texas Birding Classic! Join in on the fun and cheer for us online!
Because Houstonians live so close to the shore, we sometimes take for granted the fact that we are able to see a wonderful variety of shorebirds year-round. The beaches of Galveston are teaming with avocets, plovers, terns, sandpipers and oystercatchers, while the marshy areas of the coast are filled with herons, ibis and even spoonbills. This area is also an important stopover for many species of shorebirds that migrate from South America hundreds of miles to breeding grounds that can reach up to Alaska.
Most shorebirds are characterized by long legs, toes and bills, built for wading into water or marsh to probe for food. They usually eat a variety of insects, mollusks and other invertebrates and most shorebirds actually time when they lay their eggs so the chicks hatching coincides with the hatching of insect species that the chick will need to grow up healthy! Shorebirds also tend to be more neutral, earth-tone colors to help them blend into their surrounding while sitting on their nest.
Unfortunately, because of their dependence on coastal estuaries and marshland, many species of shorebird are declining. Although habitat loss is the most serious issue these birds face today, they are also affected by oil spills and other forms of pollution. As beach-goers, we can all do our part to make sure these birds don’t have further pollutants in their environment by making sure to dispose of trash properly while visiting the beach. Shorebirds also nest on the ground, so unless it’s necessary, avoid driving on the beach to prevent disturbing nesting birds and crushing eggs. If you’re interesting in learning more about shorebirds please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Shorebird Fact Sheet .