South Texas bird food supply impacted by February winter storm

Biologist say putting out seed and hummingbird feeders can help

South Texas is a hot spot for bird migration, especially the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi.

It was evident that Winter Storm Uri took a toll on South Texas plants.

Even though most plants will come back eventually, bird biologist Jeff Brown, who lives in Corpus Christi, says he is concerned that local and migrating birds and hummingbirds flying through Texas this month will not have enough food.

“You aren’t going to see a blooming plant for this county or the next county or the next county over,” Brown said. “All the Lantanas, hummingbird-type plants, the Trumpet Vine, Play Acanthus and all these great little plants that feed the hummingbirds in all these houses I maintain ... are having to be cut to the ground.”

South Texas is a hot spot for bird migration, especially the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi is known as the “birdiest city in the world.” Those migrating birds coming back from South America and Mexico also stop in San Antonio and the Northern parts of Texas as well.

“If you were traveling from the Valley to Dallas you are going to need to stop to gas up,” Brown said. “You are going to need a store to get something to eat or gasoline and same thing with these hummingbirds or migrating birds — they need someplace to gas up and there are no flowers to be found.”

Brown says this impact is important to pay attention to. He says even if you are not a bird or nature enthusiast, the irregularity to the bird food supply can have a domino effect on our local ecosystems to our local economy. For example, Brown says the birding industry is a multi-million dollar industry where people from across the globe travel to South Texas during migration seasons.

“They flock down here to be able to see the birds that we have to offer here in Texas,” Brown said. “It is for the restaurants and the hotel businesses, so (in) caring about nature you are caring about jobs.”

The public can help by putting out extra birdseed feeders and hummingbird feeders this month. Brown said to make sure to clean out hummingbird feeders every two to three days.

People can either buy hummingbird mix or make their own. The recipe is simple: four cups of water and one cup of sugar. Brown said don’t put any dye into homemade hummingbird nectar.

According to a recent news release, biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are asking residents with bird feeders to routinely clean them, and the areas surrounding them, in order to help slow the spread of potentially deadly diseases among bird species.

TPWD says seeds and seed hulls that accumulate on feeder trays and on the ground below feeders can become moldy or start decomposing, especially after heavy use or wet weather, and can make birds sick. Bird droppings and other contaminants around and on feeders can spread infectious bird diseases.

“The key is to keep the feeders clean, keep the area around the feeders clean, and fully shut down feeding if dead or sick birds are found at the feeder,” said TPWD Ornithologist Cliff Shackelford. “If folks do not, diseases could continue to spread.”

Brown says Mother Nature will eventually recover and remains hopeful if the public steps up. Another way you can help is by starting to replant native flowering plants for birds and pollinators now.

“It’s anything anybody can do, you as the public, little steps, but if everyone does a little it’s going to help a lot,” Brown said.

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About the Author:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.