Introducing West Texas Avian Research, Inc.

     There are many methods available to ornithologists as they research the bird life of our state and nation. However, without the ability to capture birds, study their molt patterns, measure them, determine their age and sex, mark them and then release these birds back into the environment for subsequent recaptures, our knowledge of these most marvelous of creatures would be greatly reduced. The safe, efficient marking of birds rests in the hands of trained, experienced bird banders that are licensed by the state and federal government for this purpose.
     For the past several years, two groups of resident volunteers have conducted bird banding research in the vast area commonly known as West Texas. They have volunteered their time, purchased their own equipment and paid their own expenses for the research they have conducted. They have also donated time, equipment and expenses toward providing educational bird banding demonstrations for school groups and adult interest groups. These banding groups have now joined to form West Texas Avian Research Inc.
 
Through the formation of West Texas Avian Research our goals are:

·         to increase the efficiency of our current research projects through cooperation and sharing of resources:

·         to broaden the scope of our research efforts to include other projects that will increase our knowledge of the unique and special birds of West Texas:

·         To broaden the scope of our education efforts and thus promote understanding and conservation of West Texas bird species.

·         To provide advanced training for qualified bird banders and volunteers.
     Master bird bander Kelly Bryan is currently conducting a hummingbird project that includes weekly banding efforts at eight sites throughout the Davis Mountains/Big Bend region of West Texas when hummingbirds are present. The reality is that little is known of the exact status and distribution of hummingbirds in this region. Hummingbirds are hard to identify, especially in the fall when migrating birds are intermixed with juveniles. They don’t sit still and it is virtually impossible to make proper identifications and to quantify numbers of individuals by mere observation. Therefore, the only way to obtain important data on hummingbirds is to capture and band individual birds with the acquisition of those data being the ultimate goal. This project has completely altered our knowledge of hummingbirds in this region. The distribution, population and habits of the special hummingbirds that live there were not well known before this project was started. Nine thousand, two hundred and eighty-three hummingsbirds have been banded as part of this project. More complete discussions of this project are available at http://westtexashummingbirds.com/ . Kelly is now studying the migration patterns of the songbirds in the Davis Mountain Resort. Kelly is supported in these efforts by Donna Bryan, Marc and Maryann Eastman. He and Mark Lockwood have recently been published Plumage Characteristics and Song Patterns of  Presumed Colima X Virginia’s Warbler Hybrids in the Davis Mountains of Texas in North American Birds, Volume 70 (2018).

       Master bird bander, Charles Floyd has relocated to the Davis Mountains and is currently conducting a hummingbird project, an owl project in addition to a spring and fall migrant study of songbirds. He continues to do research at the Hummer House near Christoval, Texas. http://hummerhouse.com  More than eighteen thousand hummingbirds have been banded at the Hummer House over the past several years creating a vast and unique collection of data on Black-chinned Hummingbirds. This  project continues to expand our knowledge of the population, breeding status, life span and migration cycles of these unique hummingbirds. The Painted Bunting project includes a data set of more than seven thousand records and offers valuable insights to populations, breeding status and life span of this species in connection with the active cowbird control project currently taking place at the ranch.  Systematic efforts are also made at the Burditt Ranch in Real County for support data on these projects. A winter hummingbird study is ongoing in the Concho Valley as well as in the hill country. Charles is supported in these efforts by his banding team of Nancy Floyd, Carla Hallman, Barry Cummings, and Carol Strum.
     West Texas is a vast area with a sparse population.  Despite the best efforts of these banding groups, the special birds of this region have not often been the subject of long-term research projects such as those listed above. West Texas birds remain some of the least understood and least investigated in the nation.  It is our hope that through the formation of West Texas Avian Research, Inc., we can gather resources, broaden the scope of our work and educational efforts.