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December 19, 2009

Lend a helping hand to state’s migratory songbirds

The numbers of many neotropical migratory birds are declining precipitously, but a state wildlife biologist says people can help by taking some simple steps.

Neotropical migratory birds are those species that nest in North America and migrate to the tropics to spend the winter. In South Carolina 47 percent, or 53 species, of our nesting land birds are considered neotropical migrants. They include such familiar birds as purple martins, ruby-throated hummingbirds and whip-poor-wills but also less-well-known groups such as warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, flycatchers and thrushes. Neotropical migrants are among our most beautiful and musical birds.
"Neotropical migratory birds are facing a triple whammy," said Laurel Barnhill, wildlife biologist and bird conservation coordinator with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Their habitat is being degraded on the breeding grounds here in the United States, in the tropics where they spend the winter, and on the migration corridors in between. So these birds are getting hit coming, going and in the middle."

For a brochure or more information on South Carolina’s neotropical migratory birds, write Neotropical Migrants, DNR, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202 or call the DNR at (803) 734-3886 in Columbia.
Neotropical migratory birds are highly sensitive to highways, powerlines, urban sprawl and other development that subdivides and fragments habitats. Other hazards include pesticide poisoning, especially on the wintering grounds, and excess mortality from flying into tall buildings, windows and tall towers, especially during migration.

Despite the litany of woes suffered by these birds at the hands of people, Barnhill said there are many ways average citizens can help neotropical migratory birds:

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