David Newstead

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Director of Coastal Bird Program

Dr. David Newstead began his career in bird conservation with the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program 20 years ago with a simple directive to “make birds.” Over that time he has focused on management, monitoring and research to address the concerning declines of a wide variety of coastal species including local breeders like Wilson’s Plovers to trans-hemispheric migrants like Red Knots to the panoply of colonial-nesting waterbirds such as pelicans, egrets and the subject of this talk—the Black Skimmer. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Houston, a M.S. in Biology from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. When not working, he enjoys fishing, surfing, and traveling to visit friends in cooler parts of the world.



The Black Skimmer is one of the most iconic birds of the Texas Gulf coast, immediately recognizable by both its striking coloration and unique feeding method. Unfortunately, their populations have declined in recent decades, prompting alarm among natural resource agencies and bird conservationists. But what was causing these declines? We realized there were a lot of questions we needed answers for before we could chart a course to help the species recover. Where were they going when they become less common in the winter? Are young chicks surviving to adulthood, or are they even hatching at all? Has their prey declined over the same span of time? Are there nesting sites being invaded by predators, or people? We began a series of studies about 12 years ago to start to answer some of these mysteries. This presentation will provide a glimpse into the world of skimmers that helps us understand the context of their decline, and highlights opportunities to start turning their trends around.