Article

Bird population decline ‘warning signal'

The Chestnut-collared Longspur winters in New Mexico and Texas, including parts of the Big Country, before migrating north to breed for the summer. The bird, however, has suffered a steep population decline, as have other species that follow the same migration pattern, according to a recent government report. The federal report says various factors - including energy production of all types, such as wind farms - have contributed to a 40-year decline in the national bird population.

The Chestnut-collared Longspur winters in New Mexico and Texas, including parts of the Big Country, before migrating north to breed for the summer.

The bird, however, has suffered a steep population decline, as have other species that follow the same migration pattern, according to a recent government report.

The federal report says various factors - including energy production of all types, such as wind farms - have contributed to a 40-year decline in the national bird population.

The 2009 U.S. State of Birds report put out by the U.S. Department of the Interior says birds reflect the health of the environment and their troubling decline is a "warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems."

Birds in the grasslands part of America, an area that stretches from Canada to Mexico and includes West Central Texas, are declining because of agriculture practices that include large fields with fewer grassy edges, overburned pastures and grass in public places being mowed too often.

Other threats listed in the report include climate changes and wind farms, which it says "if improperly sited, can fragment grasslands and disrupt nesting activity of game birds, such as... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Chestnut-collared Longspur winters in New Mexico and Texas, including parts of the Big Country, before migrating north to breed for the summer.

The bird, however, has suffered a steep population decline, as have other species that follow the same migration pattern, according to a recent government report.

The federal report says various factors - including energy production of all types, such as wind farms - have contributed to a 40-year decline in the national bird population.

The 2009 U.S. State of Birds report put out by the U.S. Department of the Interior says birds reflect the health of the environment and their troubling decline is a "warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems."

Birds in the grasslands part of America, an area that stretches from Canada to Mexico and includes West Central Texas, are declining because of agriculture practices that include large fields with fewer grassy edges, overburned pastures and grass in public places being mowed too often.

Other threats listed in the report include climate changes and wind farms, which it says "if improperly sited, can fragment grasslands and disrupt nesting activity of game birds, such as Lesser Prairie-Chickens."

The Big Country is the wind energy capital of North America.

A spokesman for a company that has nearly 500 wind turbines in Nolan and Taylor counties said studies are conducted to place turbines in areas where they will have the least environmental impact while at the same time having enough wind to ensure good energy production.

"Especially in Texas, we have not found our facilities have had much of an impact on birds or bats," said Steve Stengel, spokesman for NextEra Energy Resources.

Stengel said that last year his company entered into a partnership with Texas Christian University to study the socio-economic impact as well as other things, including the impact on birds.

He said occasional bird carcasses are found around the turbines but not a dramatic number.

Dale Rollins, a professor and extension wildlife specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service in San Angelo, said most often it is raptors, or birds of prey, that are struck and killed by wind turbines. He said it is not possible "to point a finger at any one thing" being responsible for bird population declines.

Fragmentation of habitat is a major problem for birds, said Rollins, who specializes in studying Bob White quail populations while serving as director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Center in Roby. Rollins said most of the wind turbines in the Abilene area are not placed in areas that would provide "good quail habitat."

But there is an area between Abilene and Albany where turbines seem to be in "pretty good quail habitat." Quail have been declining at the rate of 4 percent per year, Rollins said.

Replacement of native grasses with introduced grasses such as coastal Bermuda grass and Texas Winter grass have not been grassland bird friendly.

Rollins said the greatest impact on bird populations is utility transmission lines that fragment habitats. The lines are "friendly for ravens," which are predators of other birds, and that is a concern, he said.


Source: http://www.reporternews.com...

APR 2 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19662-bird-population-decline-warning-signal
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