Thousands of birds could be spotted flying through the skies of Central Texas last week as part of their migration journey to warmer regions. The skies over Austin had some of the most birds in Central Texas, KXAN reported. This area of the state can usually see billions of birds in the spring and fall as they migrate.
A website called BirdCast was created to track these movements. It was made by computer scientists and ornithologists from Colorado State University and Cornell University and shows a migration forecast each night.
These migrations mostly happen at night, according to BirdCast.
“This mass movement of birds must contend with a dramatically increasing but still largely unrecognized threat: light pollution,” the website shared.
BirdCast was established with hopes that it would inspire conservation efforts for birds, and help reduce the hazards they face when migrating, according to the website.
“Accurate migration models could have broad appeal and even broader application, allowing researchers to understand behavioral aspects of migration, how migration timing and pathways respond to changing climate, and whether linkages exist between variation in migration timing and subsequent changes in population size,” BirdCast explained.
After several years of development and research, the website launched in 2018.
One way that cities in the country have begun to help birds when migrating is by reducing light pollution, according to KXAN. Cities that are able to make it through a rigorous application process can become designated International Dark-Sky Communities by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Five of these communities are in Texas, and all five are in the central region of the state, according to KXAN. These cities are Dripping Springs, Horseshoe Bay, Wimberly Valley, Fredericksburg, and Blanco.
Blanco was the most recently designated International Dark-Sky Community, according to an IDA announcement from April 2022.
Ashley Wilson, the director of conservation with the IDA, shared at the time that Blanco has long been committed to celebrating the night sky.
“The City of Blanco has always been enamored with the night sky. With their tireless work, paired with the foundation of a tight-knit community and ecstatic partners, their cumulative actions have led to successfully celebrating and protecting the night sky,” Wilson said in the announcement.
Fredericksburg was designated in 2020, Wimberly Valley in 2018, and Horseshoe Bay in 2015. Dripping Springs was the first to be designated, in 2014.
Migrating birds can travel hundreds and thousands of miles, according to KXAN. The month of October will also bring ducks to the Central Texas area. Duck species that can be spotted include the Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and American Wigeon.
BirdCast estimated that on October 14, over 1.1 million birds migrated through Texas skies. On October 12 more than 62 million birds flew through the state, and on October 13 over 30 million made the journey.
As of October 12, BirdCast estimated that over 640 million birds had traveled through Texas since August.