Thirteen species of wading birds that regularly breed in Alabama. Colonial wading birds include large, familiar birds such as egrets, herons, and ibises. Colonial means that the birds nest as a group, sometimes very closely together.
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 arise 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 continue and include loss of habitat and competition from other species.
Because wading bird colonies are not necessarily permanent in location, size, or species composition, the current status of these colonies is unknown. More than 20 years passed with no attempt to identify locations of wading bird colonies throughout Alabama. The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries nongame program began conducting statewide surveys in 2015 of historic and known wading bird colonies, as well as searching for new colonies. Surveys 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, Mercedes Bartkovich, or call (334)242-3469.