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Coastal Birds Decline on Mustang Island

Coastal Birds Decline on Mustang Island
Tony Amos’s almost daily bird counts over the years have revealed a troubling decline in 10 of the 28 most common species of Mustang Island’s coastal birds.

Transcript from the audio slideshow:

In 1978, when Dr. Tony Amos began counting birds along Mustang Island beach in the glow of the rising sun, there were no major condominiums or neighborhoods peering at him over the dunes. Since then, 15 condominiums, four residential communities and an RV park have sprouted up around Port Aransas, Texas, and with those have come increased numbers of beachcombers and tourists.

Amos’s almost daily bird counts over the years have revealed a troubling decline in 10 of the 28 most common species of the area’s coastal birds. Birds such as the Great blue heron, which has declined 40 percent. The Black skimmer has declined 65 percent. Wilson’s plover is 61 percent less abundant. And the Forster’s tern, which has declined a remarkable 81 percent.

In a paper published in the journal “Estuaries and Coasts,” Amos and his colleagues Lee Fuiman and Charles Foster, say that people interfering with the birds’ roosting and feeding habitats likely caused the declines. They say it’s possible the birds have relocated to adjacent, less disturbed stretches of beach, like Padre Island National Seashore to the south. But there has also been a large-scale decline in populations of shorebirds nationally, including 5 of the species of birds found on Mustang Island.

The biologists’ study highlights the importance of long-term observations, and what they can tell us about our changing world.
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Friday, 16 April 2021

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