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Media Contact: Kristen Everett, 512-389-8046, tpwd.news@tpwd.texas.gov [KE]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Nov. 22, 2004

Conservation ‘Groups of a Feather Flock Together’ for ‘05 Birding Classic

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has partnered with the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory (GCBO) to host the 2005 ‘Great Texas Birding Classic, with each group bringing complementary resources to the world’s longest birding competition.

During the past eight years, TPWD has produced the Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC), which raises money and awareness to protect critical habitat needed by millions of birds that migrate between the Americas. The event typically draws hundreds of birding competitors from across North America (one year it drew competitors from Europe). Thousands of birding tourists also come to Texas each April to companion events along the coast.

However, the observatory’s location, which is in Lake Jackson, as well as its outreach capabilities and sponsorship pool, are expected to bring new resources to help support the upcoming Classic (April 16-24).

"This new partnership is exciting and will bring a new dimension to the tournament planning, since several GTBC birding classic participants are actively involved at the observatory," said Shelly Scroggs, who has coordinated the tournament at TPWD for the last six years. "Here we have two groups with similar missions and we decided to pool our resources for the greater good of conservation goals. I am thrilled that the observatory is jumping in on this project with us."

Organizers say the week-long tournament is the longest competitive birding event in the United States, with an impact that reaches far beyond Texas. This is because the Texas coast is important stopover habitat for birds that continue up the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. Species include many neotropical migratory songbirds, among the nation’s most colorful and popular species, which migrate huge distances between South and Central America (the neotropics) and North America.

Carol Jones, who will handle the tournament coordination at the GCBO, said "Having the GTBC tournament co-hosted will help us reach even more people with our conservation message. The numbers of neotropical migrants continues to decline and we want to do everything we can to turn this trend around. Conserving migratory bird habitat positively impacts habitat for all our native flora and fauna along the Texas coast."

Since TPWD started the Birding Classic in 1997, winning teams have directed more than $400,000 in prize money to buy, restore or improve Texas coastal bird habitat. See (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/gtbc/prizes/) for details about the 23 habitat projects funded so far. This year, winning teams will direct a total of $51,000 to habitat conservation projects they choose. Teams are also eligible for a variety of prizes, such as binoculars, cameras and field guides, resources that are donated by event sponsors.

Classic prizes and tournament categories are set up to accommodate birders of all age groups and skill levels. The tourneys’ first blind birding category was introduced last year. The main Birding Classic for adult and senior participants takes place on three separate days and for 2005, it will be starting with the lower coast then onto central coast and ending in the upper coast. All other competition categories and other aspects of the tournament will be almost the same in 2005 as they were in 2004.

The awards brunch for the upcoming tournament will be in Lake Jackson on Sunday April 24.

For more information about the Birding Classic, call (512) 389-4500, or visit the TPWD website (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/gtbc/).

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