The Christmas Bird Count began 116 years ago. This year’s bird counts started in mid-December in Central Texas and will run into next month. The idea is to have a group of volunteers take a survey of every bird they see within a 15-mile circle. Sheila Hargis helps organize the events over the years. She says she’s seen a lot of new birds in that time, including the least grebes.
“When I started birding 20 years ago, you didn’t see those, unless you went to the lower Rio Grande Valley, like Brownsville or Weslaco and that area. But, over those 20 years, they’ve made their way north,” she said.
Researchers say climate change is responsible for the northward expansion of some species, though, development in Central Texas has also played a role.
“With a lot of those housing developments, they have these retention ponds and some of those retention ponds are really good habitats for ducks,” she said. “So, we’re starting to see more and more of those crop up at the same time that we’re losing prairie habitat or forest habitat.”
When it comes to the bird count in Bastrop, where volunteers will be on Sunday, recent wildfires led to shifts in certain populations.