Protecting the Birds of Prey at the Cibolo
By Elizabeth Matney
The Cibolo Center for Conservation is home to many Birds of Prey, and part of our conservation work includes creating a safe and healthy habitat so they can thrive. Birds of Prey include owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons, and these majestic birds eat mice, snakes, lizards, and roaches. Birds of Prey are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. They are hunters and only kill what they need, and they leave the rest. By only killing what they need, it helps maintain the populations of rodents and snakes without decimating their numbers.
Our 160-acre campus hosts many species of hawks, like Red-Shouldered Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, the occasional Barn Owl, and many more. Owls are beneficial in so many ways, including the fact that they eat animals with rabies. Though this disease is deadly to humans, owls have a higher body temperature, and they can kill the virus. They also serve as an indicator species for environmental hazards such as DDT. Their health issues helped us discover that DDT had harmful effects. Birds of Prey need our protection.
We can protect them by not using rat poison or insecticide whenever possible, leaving branches on trees for birds to nest in, and leaving dead trees when it is safe to do so. Our Cibolo staff works to manage the land to support all of the species who call our place home, and with our new designated Land Manager, we will have more opportunities to engage in land stewardship.
Our next Thirst for Nature on July 22 will feature Last Chance Forever, a local bird conservancy in San Antonio, rescuing and rehabilitating injured or ill birds before reintroducing them into the wild. Come join us to learn more about these birds and see them up close.
Last Chance Forever supports the birds before returning them to the wild, and in our partnership, bird releases have occurred at the Nature Center and on the Cibolo Preserve. Unfortunately, sometimes these birds cannot return to their original habitat, so Last Chance Forever uses them as ambassadors to spread awareness about protecting Birds of Prey. One of the most vital actions you can take to protect these animals is to learn more about them. We offer programs like the Thirst for Nature series and Night Hikes that help bring more understanding about their protection and conservation.
One of the key reasons these birds are diminishing in numbers is light pollution. Light pollution interrupts the entire cycle of life because plants struggle to produce nectar, which reduces the number of animals that birds of prey have available for food. By turning off your lights at night, you can help restore our environment. Other things we can do include not using insecticide and or rodenticide, avoiding over trimming trees, and leaving dead trees when safe.
Another critical thing to do is leave infant birds of prey alone unless you are confident, they are abandoned. When humans intervene and try to rescue the baby, it ends up hurting them because they are removed from their environment. The baby’s mother often watches the baby from afar, and the baby is perfectly safe. If you come across an injured bird of prey, please report it to Last Chance Forever so they will have a chance to heal and be reintroduced to the wild. The conservancy will save these animals at no cost.
To learn more about these birds and Last Chance Forever, please consider attending our Thirst for Nature: Birds of Prey series at 7:00 pm on July 22nd.