Impacts of Cold Fronts on Bird Migrations

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South Padre Island -

While some enjoy the cooler temperatures, low dew points and chance of rain a cold front brings, some birding experts say it can cause problems for migrating birds.

Father Thomas Pecheli tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS he started bird watching close to 45 years ago.

"Before I knew it, I bought a pair of binoculars and a field guide and I was hooked," said Pecheli.

From experience, he said now is a great time to bird watch, but he knows the weather has put birds at risk.

"Cold fronts definitely make a difference and during peak migration periods of course," said Alicia Cavazos, a member of Texas Master Naturalist.

Cavazos said April is peak migration season, but the large number of late-season cold fronts this year has put the migration pattern in danger.

"Usually what they do is they fly with the southern winds. They just get picked up by those winds and they go," said Cavazos.

Cold fronts shift the winds to the north and the pressure gradient brings in strong gusts.

This can be dangerous for the thousands of migrating birds, who have to fight against a head wind and land at the first sight of vegetation, due to exhaustion.

"With cold fronts, it kind of stops them, so they're going to use some of their body energy and their reserve fat," Cavazos said.

Sometimes, the birds don't always make it.

Most of the birds seen are trans-gulf migrants, meaning they have to travel roughly 1,263.8 miles.

Some fall into the ocean and die, others go to the nearest thing they can find, including shrimp boats.

"Birds land on their platforms and they just wait out there until they get a little more energy," Cavazos said.

Windy conditions can also be concerning.

Cavazos said you shouldn't feed birds anything other than oranges and wild bird seed.

You should also keep pets away, but the number one thing you should do is leave them alone and don't touch them.

Cavazos knows it's all a part of nature, but wants to make sure even the rarest of birds are still around for years to come.

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