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Energy & Environment

After a Lark of a Year, Austin Birders Prepare for Annual Christmas Count

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The red-legged honeycreeper was one of three rare species found in the state this year by Texas ornithologists.

The annual Austin Christmas bird count is happening this Saturday, when bird enthusiasts, or birders, take a census of what birds they can spot across the entire Austin area. So far, 2014 has already been an unusual year for bird sightings in Texas.

Three species of birds never seen in the state before were spotted this year in Texas. 

Those were a red-legged honeycreeper, a gray-crowned rosy-finch and a pair of common cranes – which, as the name might suggest, are indeed common, but they’re typically a European species.

“You know birds have wings,” says President of the Texas Ornithological Society Jim Hailey. “So, they can go wherever they want to go.”

Hailey says there are there are "rarely two" new bird sightings reported in a year. Making these three sightings a big deal. 

Many experts say some bird populations may be moving around as a result of climate change.  Hailey points to the case of the Crested Cara Cara 

"The Crested Cara Cara, 20 years ago ,was very rarely ever seen north of say Corpus or Victoria," says Hailey. "Now you can see them all the way up to Dallas."

As far as these three birds go, Hailey thinks at least two of them will be accepted as legitimate sighting by the Ornithological society.  But the red-legged honeycreeper could have been an escaped pet, so it might not count.

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