Migratory Birds (Egrets / Herons)

Prevention Efforts at Stacy Ridge Park and Celebration Park 
Update - February 18, 2016: In order to prevent Cattle Egret nesting in Allen, Parks and Recreation staff have started using predatory bird noise-making devices at Celebration Park and Stacy Ridge Park. Activities have started earlier this year due to the warmer weather. Once Cattle Egrets are sited in Allen, staff will switch to the use of “percussive” devices that produce a loud bang. This measure must begin immediately upon sighting and does not provide an opportunity for advance notification in surrounding neighborhoods; however, park signage is posted to alert residents and park goers of the activity. These devices sound similar to fireworks or gunfire and residents should not be alarmed. (Listen to sample of noisemakers.) Typically, the threat of an egret nesting site remains high through mid-May so efforts will remain in effect through that time, or until Parks staff is confident the threat of nesting has passed.

Signage will be placed at both locations to alert park patrons of the noise disruptions. If necessary, the area immediately surrounding the noise-making device may be restricted to staff only. 

If there is evidence of cattle egret activity at other city parks, staff will expand the use of the noise-making devices to those areas using the same residential notification methods.

Residents can report possible sightings of Cattle Egrets, Night Herons or other major migratory bird activity to 214.509.3301. You can read more about how to identify these birds further down on this page or contact us for more information or if you have questions.

Protecting Public Parks and Greenbelts 
The devastation caused by large nesting sites such as the ones we have experienced in Allen can be tremendous. In 2013-2014, hundreds of homeowners and families were affected, two of our most beautiful parks sustained substantial environmental damage, and thousands of dollars in clean-up costs were incurred. You can learn more about the previous nesting sites by reading the brief history of Cattle Egrets in Allen.

It is important to remember that once a single egg is found in a single nest, these sites become protected under federal law and everyone, City staff and residents, is prohibited from interfering or harassing the birds. The best way to avoid the residential and environmental impact that can occur is to prevent the birds from establishing their nests at all. 

Predicting where migratory birds will ultimately choose to nest is nearly impossible. However, since these birds typically attempt to return to the same site as the previous year, that is where Parks and Recreation staff will focus their surveillance and preventative efforts first. In addition, staff has completed a review of the entire park system in Allen and identified other areas of possible concern. Those areas will also be closely monitored with available staff. 

What Can You Do?
There are several measures that area residents and businesses can take to help prevent the establishment of nesting sites in our area.
  • Learn what Cattle Egrets and Night Herons look like. See images below with basic descriptions.
  • Report sightings of Cattle Egrets and Night Herons or other major migratory bird activity to 214.509.3301.
  • Ensure trees are trimmed to allow sunlight to shine through; it may also be helpful to create a separation between tree canopies.
  • If there have been birds nesting before, remove ALL old nesting material that does not contain eggs.
  • Be a good neighbor and help those who may have special needs and/or team up with your neighbors when hiring a tree trimming service and ask for discount rates for group service.
About Migratory Birds
Migratory birds such as egrets and herons are commonly seen in Texas as they journey annually between the United States and Canada. As important as these waterbirds are to habitats that can support them, they may also bring devastating challenges such as noise, odor and other significant environmental impacts. 

City staff cannot address any of these concerns while the birds are nesting due to their protected status under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the best way to prevent the establishment of a nesting site is through early detection and public awareness. If detected early, before any nesting activity has begun, these birds can be deterred from establishing themselves in a park with various scaring methods recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

More Resources:

cattle egretCattle Egret:
  • Length 18  - 22 inches
  • Wingspan 35 - 3
  • Yellow to orange bill
  • Short, thick neck
  • Hunched posture
  • Yellowish legs
  • Color may change during different times of the year
  • Breed late February - October
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Breeding Bird Atlas - Yellow Crowned Night Heron

yellow crowned night heronYellow Crowned Night Heron:
  • Length 20 - 24 inches
  • Wingspan 40 - 46
  • Frequently noticed in area heronries or as "scout" birds
  • Light to dark gray body
  • Gray bill
  • Small section of white feathers on top of head and along eyes
  • Long yellow legs
  • Breed March - July