Wading Bird (Families: Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae) Migration, Habitat Selection and Use, and Foraging Behavior on the Southern High Plains of Texas

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological and Environmental Sciences

Date of Award

Spring 2019


Several wading bird species (Family: Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae) are commonly found throughout the Southern High Plains region, most often during spring and fall migration with some year-round or breeding residents. Migrating birds appeared in the region beginning in May, peaking in June, and departed during July of the 2018 season. Overall birds selected for wetlands with greater depths, shorter aquatic vegetation, and either less than 10% vegetation coverage or greater than 50% vegetation coverage. Wading birds were found most often within 5 m of the shoreline and within 5 m of other birds of the same species. Abundance increased with less aquatic vegetation and taller shoreline vegetation, and the majority of birds were found standing in less than 10 cm of water. Active birds spent approximately 40% of their time foraging and utilized a variety of foraging techniques. Birds were observed capturing fish, amphibians, insects, and presumably, benthic or suspended aquatic invertebrates. This study observed wading birds utilizing human-made ponds and wetlands surrounded by cropland more often than other studies have reported, suggesting that they may provide a more critical resource annually, as opposed to only during drought years. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which wading birds utilize these wetlands and how quality varies between natural sites.


Johanna Delgado-Acevedo

Subject Categories

Animal Sciences | Life Sciences