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Migratory Birds (Egrets / Herons)
Recovery Process at Stacy Ridge Park
Update - January 21, 2015: Parks and Recreation staff have begun work on Stacy Ridge Park in the aftermath of last year’s Cattle Egret nesting site. Due to the devastation caused by a rookery of that size, the entire cleaning and clearing process will continue for approximately six more weeks. Staff continues to remove empty nests, dead birds and other debris left behind. A selective thinning of interior trees and clearing of undergrowth will begin in the next few weeks in order to help make the site less desirable for future nesting.

A study is being conducted to identify and map potential park land at risk for Cattle Egrets and their nesting sites. In early March, Parks and Recreation staff will implement a regular park surveillance plan to monitor Stacy Ridge Park, Celebration Park and other areas identified by the study. This surveillance will look for Night Heron or Cattle Egret activity to help target and prompt the use of visual deterrents and/or noisemaking devices as recommended by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Parks and Recreation staff will attempt to alert area residents before these tools are used.

Staff continues to ask residents to report sightings of Cattle Egrets, Night Herons or other major migratory bird activity to 214.509.4700. You can read more about these birds further down on this page or contact us for more information or if you have questions.

Protecting Public Parks and Greenbelts 
The comprehensive egret management plan under development will address efforts to safeguard public parks and greenbelt areas from the impact created by egret rookeries. While there is no way to predict where the birds will select to nest and the establishment of a seasonal rookery within the City is not entirely preventable, the most suitable areas are being identified. These areas will be closely monitored to the extent possible by Parks staff and approved techniques designed to prevent nesting will be deployed as needed. We will continue to work with homeowners surrounding these areas to provide ongoing information about these efforts and to advise residents on what safeguards they may want to take to prevent nesting on private property. 

In 2013, the five acre wooded section of Celebration Park adjacent to Angel Parkway was closed for over six months as a large population of federally protected Cattle Egrets nested creating a public health issue and significantly impacting the environment. Parks staff spent significant time cleaning the area and trimming low vegetation and small trees in order to thin the forest canopy to discourage future nesting. Other methods utilized and suggested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service included raising balloons that have a large “eye” or similar graphic and devices that will temporarily create a noisy, disruptive environment.

Evidence of nesting at Stacy Ridge Park was not detected until late April 2014 due to the dense nature of the greenbelt and forested area. At the point activity was known, nesting had begun and by law, the City could not disturb or harass the birds. The area was fenced off and closed until such time that all of the birds vacated the nests. Parks and Recreation staff confirmed all migratory bird activity within the Stacy Ridge Park site had ended by late October, 2014.

The egret management plan addresses issues faced with the previous two nesting sites in an effort to prevent occurrences in Allen in the future. 

What Have We Done?
To address the migratory bird issue, the City's efforts have been focused on safeguarding public health, addressing the environmental impact to the extent allowed by law, and maintaining the recreational uses of the park. Following is a list of measures implemented:
  • Extensive clean-up effort conducted at Celebration Park at the end of 2013 from that year's rookery. This effort included removal of dead hatchlings, excessive bird excrement, and restoration of park picnic tables and benches at a cost exceeding $8,000.
  • Five acre area of trees was thinned to lesson canopy thickness. Heavily forested areas are preferred for nesting purposes.
  • Public awareness campaign conducted including post cards mailed to area residents, public information meeting held, and ongoing notifications/updates via various channels such as the website, e-newsletters and ACTV. There was also onsite signage regarding deterrence efforts.
  • On-site visual deterrents as recommended by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Use of noisemaking devices as recommended by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Continual monitoring of all City of Allen park areas.
  • A federal and state approved deodorizing agent was applied several times to areas at the Stacy Ridge Park rookery to help mitigate odor issues.

Please contact us if you would like further information.

What Can You Do?
While it is not possible to predict exactly where these birds will choose to nest, Texas Parks and Wildlife advises that when trying to prevent or change a nesting site, the birds may move to another location with a similar tree canopy density. There are several preventative measures that area residents and businesses can take to help address migratory birds.
  • 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 214.509.3150.
  • 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 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, or heronry, is through early detection and public awareness. If detected early when the birds first move in, they are nervous and can be easily moved with various scaring methods.

More Resources:

US Fish & Wildlife Service - Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Presentation by Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Brett Johnson

Texas Parks and Wildlife Information on Nuisance Heronries in Texas

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Breeding Bird Atlas - Cattle Egret

cattle egretCattle Egret:
  • Length 18" - 22"
  • Wingspan 35" - 38"
  • 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"
  • 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

migratory birds