Portions of Central Texas’ bird population may have died during deep freeze

Weather

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Last week’s series of major winter storms and their bitterly cold temperatures continue to have devastating effects in Central Texas.

And new ways are surfacing as the days go on.

As the storms hit, large swaths of wildlife — particularly birds — had nowhere to retreat as snow, ice and single-digit temperatures took hold.

Jane Tillman, volunteer with the Travis County Audubon Society, says some bird populations may have died off in last week’s winter storms because of lack of food and cold temperatures. Unfortunately, many of those birds had migrated to Central Texas to escape the annual cold seasons in northern states.

“We also have birds that come in for the winter and several of those have died… from lack of food and probably the cold. Really, it was just a widespread disaster,” Tillman said.

For the birds that stayed or were unable to escape to warmer climates, lack of food due to half a foot of snow and ice coverage was likely one of the causes of the large die-off.

Tillman says some birds are highly migratory and were equipped to move farther south once the cold arrived, but it’s unknown how far they made it since freezing temperatures made it all the way the into northern Mexico.

The long-term effects of the storms on local bird populations are uncertain at this time. But the annual nationwide breeding bird surveys might give a clue once they’re conducted in May and June.

If you’re interested in helping the local bird population ahead of the next Arctic outbreak, Tillman has some tips.

  • You can set out water and food for birds to drink and eat. Just make sure to check the water frequently so that it doesn’t freeze
  • You can also create makeshift bird shelters with branches and piles of brush. These shelters can help protect birds from trees that may snap and fall

To help report wildlife loss of life to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Tillman suggests either logging on to iNaturalist’s website or downloading the iNaturalist app on your mobile device. Reporting this loss of life may be difficult, but Tillman says this will help give scientists an idea of how many wildlife were actually lost during this disaster.

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