Monday, March 15, 2010

14th Annual Great Texas Birding Classic Set For April 24-May 2

The Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) is coming up April 24-May 2, coinciding with the annual spectacle of spring bird migration in Texas. This friendly competition has a serious conservation purpose. Adult teams who record the most bird species win the privilege of choosing which bird conservation projects receive grant money.

To date, the GTBC has contributed $686,000 directly to avian habitat conservation along the Texas gulf coast. Each year, organizations submit conservation project proposals for prize funding consideration. The tournament’s mission is to increase appreciation, understanding and conservation of birds along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail through education, recreation, nature tourism and conservation fundraising. The event is sponsored by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The tournament addresses a growing problem that could undermine the multi-million dollar birding tourism business in Texas. Currently, 633 species of birds have been documented in Texas. Over 400 species can be found along the Texas coast during spring migration. This rich biodiversity of birds is due to the highly diverse habitats along the Texas coast.

However, each year more and more habitat are significantly altered. Forty years of bird population data from Christmas Bird Counts and Breeding Bird Surveys were recently analyzed by National Audubon. Since 1967 the average population of the common birds in steepest decline has fallen by 68 percent; some individual species nose-dived as much as 80 percent. All 20 birds on the national Common Birds in Decline list lost at least half their populations in just four decades.

These findings point to serious problems with both local habitats and national environmental trends. Ultimately, citizen action is vital to make a difference for the birds and our ecological future. But projects like the Birding Classic help by bringing conservation organizations, corporations, and local communities together to preserve habitat.

For additional information, including how to register a team in competition, or learn about Texas spring birding opportunities for casual birders, visit the Web sites of Gulf Coast Bird Observatory or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, or contact GTBC Tournament Coordinator Carol Jones at or (979) 480-0999.

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