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Expert says Pa. is haven for Important Bird Areas

May 02, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Pennsylvania is a key migration route for raptors, waterfowl and song birds as they head from the Arctic tundra to the tropics of South America and Mexico, an expert on birds told a small crowd at Renfrew Institute Thursday night.

"One day in 1969, 4,000 hawks and eagles were counted over Hawk Mountain," said Steve Hoffman, the director of bird conservation of Audubon Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Pa.

Hawk Mountain, a site north of Allentown, Pa., draws more than 80,000 visitors during the migration period from August through December, he said.

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Until 1934 the site was popular with people who shot the birds as they flew by. "They shot them for sport," Hoffman said.

Birds, their identification, their place in Pennsylvania and how to landscape to attract them are the topics of a three-lecture series at Renfrew Institute.

Hoffman, the second lecturer in the series, also spoke of a program that will monitor and protect the state's bird population - healthy, threatened and endangered. It's called IBA for Important Bird Area. There are 78 such designated sites in the Keystone State.

The program is expected to grow into a major bird conservation movement worldwide.

Bird populations are on the decline because of urban sprawl destroying their habitat, fragmentation of their habitat and overbrowsing of the forest underbrush by deer, Hoffman said.

Cats, pet and wild, kill an estimated 1 billion birds a year in the United States, he said. The answer, he said, is for owners to keep their cats in the house. "It's safer for the birds and the cats," he said.

Similar scientific studies show that a significant number of birds are killed each year when they crash into windows, he said.

"Forty percent of the bird population dies every year anyway, but there are positive signs, too," Hoffman said. Species like the bald eagle and eastern bluebird have made significant comebacks, he said.

"In 1985 there were two nesting pairs of bald eagles in Pennsylvania. Today there are 66 pairs," he said.

The final lecture in the series, "Landscaping for Birds," will be presented by Marcus Schneck, outdoor editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

It will be held at Renfrew Institute May 22 at 7 p.m.

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