Colonial wading birds include large, familiar birds such as egrets, herons, and ibises. There are 13 species of wading birds that regularly breed in Alabama.
Over a hundred years ago many species of wading birds with elegant plumages were overharvested by market hunters for the millinery trade. After seeing drastic declines in populations, wading birds were protected by the Weeks-McLean Law(1913) outlawing market hunting as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) protecting all migratory birds. After populations began to rebound, other issues began to arrise with environmental contaminants such as DDT. Wading birds were one of many fish-eating birds (most notably Bald Eagles) that were affected. While populations are doing better today, threats to wading birds contine and include loss of habitat and competition from other species.
Over 20 years have elapsed since any attempts have been made to identify locations of wading bird colonies throughout the state. Colonies are not necessarily permanent in location, size, or species composition, and thus current status of these colonies is unknown. Starting this year, 2015, the nongame program will be conducting statewide surveys of historic and known wading bird colonies, as well as searching for new colonies. Surveys will include aerial and ground surveys, solicited reports from DCNR personnel, as well as reports from bird watchers across the state. Once colonies are located, they will be monitored annually to assess population trends of wading bird species in the state.
If you know of any historic or current wading bird rookeries and would like to help with this project, email your information to the project leader, Carrie Threadgill, or call (334)242-3469.
More information can be found about wading birds of Alabama here: