Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico

Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico

Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico

Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico

Synopsis

The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important ecological regions in the world for birds. The mosaic of diverse habitats in the region provides numerous niches for birds. There are productive salt marshes, barrier islands, and sandy beaches for foraging and nesting; a direct pathway between North and Central and South America for migrating; and warm, tropical waters for wintering. Many species are residents all year around, some migrate through, and still others spend the winter along the shores. The Gulf Coast is home to a significant portion of the world's population of Reddish Egret and Snowy Plover and a significant portion of the US breeding populations of certain birds, including the Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, and Laughing Gull. In total, there are more than 400 bird species that rely on the Gulf at some time during the year.

Drawing on decades of fieldwork and data research, renowned ornithologist and behavioral ecologist Joannion, behavior, and major threats and stressors affecting birds in the region, including the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. While some of this data exists in journal articles, research papers, and government reports, this is the first volume to weave together a comprehensive overview of the birds and related natural resources found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Illustrated with over 900 color photographs, charts, and maps, this landmark reference volume will be immensely important for researchers, conservationists, land managers, birders, and wildlife lovers.

Excerpt

Birds have always intrigued and fascinated me. Early in my career, as a budding biology student in the mid-1960s at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville) in South Texas, my advisor and mentor Dr. Allan Chaney sparked my interest in birds. At first, it was required that we learn the local birds on our many field trips in his vertebrate zoology class. Then, he took selected students to count colonial nesting waterbirds on the dredged material islands in the Laguna Madre around the mouth of Baffin Bay. Wow! What an experience that was for a young biologist.

After Dr. Chaney sparked this interest in birds, like my other college buddies, I began carrying my bird field guide and binoculars everywhere I went, making lists of what birds I saw. Bird watching was cheap entertainment for graduate students then, who would go drive the Loop Road at the King Ranch, or drive down to Baffin Bay to see the shorebirds, checking out the waterfowl on farm and ranch ponds along the way.

When I took my first (and only) job in 1974 at Texas A&I University at Corpus Christi (later Corpus Christi State University and now Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi), my good friend and colleague Brian Chapman, also a Chaney student, taught vertebrate zoology and studied birds in the region. I continued watching birds on my marine biology/ecology-oriented field trips, and I helped Brian with an important study of the impact of the Ixtoc I oil spill (1979–1980) on birds of Padre Island beaches. This project got one of us, or one of Brian’s graduate students, in the field weekly for a year, driving the beach from Corpus Christi to Mansfield Pass counting birds and noting their distribution in various habitats along the barrier island.

As a marine biologist/ecologist, specializing in seashells and coral reefs, this link to birds might seem strange, but it was not. Dr. Chaney taught us to study nature, not just shells or birds, or one habitat, like coral reefs or oyster reefs. Today this same approach is prevalent in universities and big agencies, as well as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but now we call it the ecosystem approach, where we look at everything in the environment, including humans, to better understand the big picture of nature.

In the early middle part of my career (1985–1986) I had the opportunity with a Fulbright Scholar Award to move to the Yucatán for one year to study the mollusks of coral reefs around that amazing peninsula. Ironically, when the weather and seas got bad on the remote Campeche Bank reefs and islands I was studying, prohibiting water entry, I turned to the colonial nesting seabirds for study. Visits to the islands of Alacrán, Arenas, Triángulos, and Cayos Arcas. . .

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