Bird City, USA
Dallas proves it's for the birds with special new certification
Dallas has earned another feather in its cap. The city is among the first certified Bird Cities in Texas, along with Houston, Port Aransas, and the Central Texas town of Bastrop.
The certification, from Audubon Texas and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, recognizes these communities for undertaking community engagement, habitat management, and threat reduction for birds.
"Dallas has restored hundreds of acres of native prairies throughout their city, benefiting many grassland bird species," the organizations say in a release. "They have worked to reduce to the amount of pesticides used to remove invasive plants during these restoration projects. They’ve also created an innovative outreach program that provides birding backpacks for urban youth."
It comes at a time of growing scientific evidence of stress on our feathered friends. Scientists recently estimated that since 1970, North America lost more than one in four birds, or nearly three billion total. The causes include pesticide use, insect declines, climate change, outdoor cats, and glass skyscrapers (birds are killed when flying into reflective glass). Migratory species also deal with changing conditions along their routes and in winter habitats. Audubon’s Survival by Degrees report says that two-thirds of North American birds face greater risk of extinction due to increasing temperatures globally.
By preserving green spaces, Bird Cities help people, too. According to TPWD, bird-friendly habitat increases property values and helps control insects. Plus, the designation provides economic benefits to communities by helping them attract more of the state’s 2.2 million bird watchers.
Those bird watchers and other travelers can take advantage of better nature-watching conditions and special events.
Bastrop is making its 277 different species of birds feel more at home by addressing light pollution and adding infrastructure. Top birding spots include Bastrop and Buescher State Parks and LCRA McKinney Roughs Nature Park.
Houston Audubon offers a website with a map to the city’s best birding spots, as well as tips for novice birders and for residents who want to make their surroundings more bird-friendly. Port Aransas also has a website guide to the best destinations for those on a quest for birds and nature down at the coast.
Olivia Schmidt, TPWD outreach specialist, says in order to become Bird City certified, communities must meet a minimum number of criteria and promise to continue to meet them for three years.
“We had 10 communities apply for this first round,” she says. “All of them have been doing wonderful work, and we encourage them to continue those efforts. We’ll work closely with them to help them meet the qualifications."
Current Bird City Texas certifications last through 2022. Other communities can apply for the next round of certifications in early summer 2020.