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Bird Research

Mottled Duck and Black Rail Project

A black rail flying through the air with blurry greenery in the background.

This research is a collaboration between National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Department of Commerce (DOC) as part of the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. As part of this larger Gulf Coast research project, TCC will look at fire effects in Gulf of Mexico marshes, including historical perspectives, management, and monitoring of mottled ducks and black rails. The first field season starts in 2021.

Snowy Plover Ecology

A snowy plover standing with right side toward the camera.

Photo Credit: rayhennessy / Adobe Stock

Dr. Conway has been researching snowy plover ecology since his own dissertation research began in 1998. There have been countless collaborators and students involved over the years.

Through the years Dr. Conway and TCC have investigated the following:

  • Population ecology of both inland and coastal breeding birds

  • Survival and population trends of inland plovers

  • Snowy plover breeding ecology and crypsis

  • Nest site selection, spatial patterning, and thermal ecology

  • Nest success and offspring sex ratio adjustment

  • Development of a novel nest trap system

  • Environmental availability and prey bioavailabity of toxic heavy metals, as related to plover exposure, internal concentrations and implications.

Earlier Mottled Duck Research

A mottled duck angled toward the camera in water.

Photo Credit(s):  Tommy Quarles | Cornell Lab


The TCC has had previous research projects looking at the ecology of mottled ducks (Anas fulvigula) within the Texas Chenier Plain Wildlife Refuge Complex with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  From 2009-2011, satellite platform transmitter terminals (PTTs) were used to track movement patterns and monitor adult female survival through 2012. This data provided invaluable information from which to base management actions that maximize the availability of wetlands and associated uplands during hunting seasons and drought conditions. From 2010-2012, the TCC explored the blood lead concentrations to identify more recent exposure and found that, despite lead shot bans enacted over 25 years ago, blood lead concentrations remain elevated. Identifying available sources of environmental lead may be important for minimizing exposure.

American woodcock migratory connectivity and lead toxicity

An American woodcock standing with his left side to the camera in an area covered with pine needles.

Photo Credit(s): Adobe Stock

From 2010-2012 the TCC investigated the landscape-scale ecology of American woodcock wintering in East Texas to produce an estimate of occupancy and presence using a trained pointing dog on GPS-tracked surveys.  Researchers estimated woodcock detection rates, occupancy, and density as related to habitat quality and quantity. Stable isotopes from nationally harvested subadult woodcock were used to delineate migration corridors and connections between natal and wintering grounds. These data helped update and validate winter habitat models and migratory corridors for American woodcock.

Eastern Wild Turkey Ecology and Management

Two wild turkeys sitting in some tree branches.

Photo credit(s): Ken Orich | Cornell Lab

The TCC has worked on eastern wild turkey reproductive ecology, nest site selection, effects of translocation on genetics, as well as turkey predation in East Texas, and how they relate to management of eastern wild turkeys in Texas.  This research culminated in the development of criteria, including landowner cooperatives,  that would greatly improve the success of later turkey "Super Stocking" translocation efforts and reduce wasted time and money for landowners and TPWD. This research was undertaken in collaboration with TPWD and National Wild Turkey Federation.

Black-Necked Stilt Nesting Ecology and Survival on the Texas Coast

A black-necked stilt wading in shallow water.

Photo credit(s): Jeff Tell | Cornell Lab

Links: Thomas Riecke

From 2011 - 2013, TCC investigated black-necked stilt nesting ecology, specifically nest site selection and nest survival, within Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Chambers Co, Texas. Additionally, lead (Pb) levels in blood were investigated for potential toxicity issues. This research was performed in collaboration with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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