Charlotte Magazine
Avian Invasion Image Credit: Charlotte Magazine
Avian Invasion Image Credit: Charlotte Magazine

Avian Invasion

With homes and businesses overtaking Mecklenburg County’s available land, some bird species are displacing others, leaving behind a less diverse population. One conservation biologist and his team are monitoring the changes—and what they mean for the county’s overall environmental health.

Greg Lacour

Twelve years ago, Tuscan Development of Charlotte, a company known for building condominium complexes, began construction on a huddle of 24 Craftsman-style houses on five acres of creek-drained wetland in Cotswold. All were at least 3,000 square feet and arranged around a pond, complete with hardwood floors, 10-foot downstairs ceilings, rocking-chair porches, and prices starting at $450,000.

As they cleared the property, the developers noticed a nest in a tree. The gaping, tufted-gray occupants were freshly hatched yellow-crowned night-herons, a species common to shallow-water habitats in the Southeast but rare and threatened in Mecklenburg County. This was late spring, breeding season. Tuscan left the tree alone and consulted conservation biologists with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, which tried to work out a plan to save the nest. But city development standards required the developer to drain the property, robbing the heron of its current breeding habitat.

The developer waited until the hatchlings were out of the nest in late summer before finishing site work. Tuscan did preserve something of their memory. If you’re driving down South Sharon Amity Road toward SouthPark Mall, you can see the development yourself by taking a right onto Night Heron Lane.

“So now the colony’s not there,” Don Seriff, the county’s natural resources coordinator and supervisor, says with a wry chuckle. “But the road&r

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