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Migratory Birds (Egrets / Herons)
Active Rookery at Stacy Ridge Park
Update: August 14, 2014: Parks and Recreation staff periodically spray a non-toxic odor controlling enzyme solution at the Cattle Egret rookery in an effort to minimize odors in the surrounding neighborhoods. A spraying occurred Aug. 14. In addition, staff is removing dead and dying birds outside of the rookery as frequently as possible and secured permission to do so on HOA property that surrounds the rookery as well. At this time, it appears that the overall bird population at the rookery has significantly decreased which is a sign that the birds are migrating away from the nesting site. Parks staff will continue to monitor and consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service so that major clean up efforts can begin as soon as possible.  

As a reminder, portions of the rookery area have been fenced off and the public recreational trail at Stacy Ridge Park remains closed until further notice. Legal permits are required for the handling and removal of deceased birds and this should not be attempted by residents.

Previously posted information:
The City of Allen Parks and Recreation Department maintains the necessary permits to be able to enter the area once breeding season has ended and the birds have left in order to fully clear debris and conduct selective thinning of the vegetation in an effort to prevent their return to Stacy Ridge Park next year. This will occur in late fall of this year.

Alerts to the neighboring residents continue to be issued on an ongoing basis through the Public & Media Relations Office and the HOAs.

As a reminder, per state and federal regulations, disturbance of the rookery in Stacy Ridge Park is prohibited. Both the City and residents are unable to do anything that would be considered “harassment.”

Efforts to Prevent Repeat Rookery at Celebration Park
Update: June 10, 2014: Allen Parks and Recreation Department has stopped its use of noisemaking devices as these efforts were successful in preventing the establishment of a rookery at Celebration Park this year. Mitigation efforts at both Celebration Park and Stacy Ridge Park will resume in early 2015.

Protecting Public Parks and Greenbelts
A comprehensive egret management plan is being developed in an effort 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 have been 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 early 2015. 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 any nesting on private property. Please continue to check the City’s website for ongoing updates.

Last year, the five acre wooded section of the 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. Since that time, Parks staff spent significant time cleaning the area and trimming low vegetation and small trees in order to thin the forest canopy to discourage nesting this year. Other methods suggested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include raising balloons that have a large “eye” or similar graphic and utilizing devices that will temporarily create a noisy, disruptive environment.

With the sighting of Cattle Egrets at Celebration Park, these preventive measures are currently being implemented to protect the public health and environment, and safeguard the recreational uses of the park. For safety purposes, if these measures necessitate it, the forested area may be fenced and closed to the public until the potential Egret breeding season has passed.

What Have We Done?
To address the migratory bird issue, the City's efforts have focused its priorities on protecting against a public health issue, mitigating the environmental impact, and maintaining the recreational uses of the park. Following is a list of measures implemented:
  • Massive clean-up effort conducted at the end of 2013 from the previous 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 is also signage onsite at the deterrence location.
  • 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.

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