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Bird-watching event engages families at Las Vegas park

Families flocked to Sunset Park on Sunday to learn about the birds that live in and migrate through Southern Nevada.

Jasper Hunter-Roy, 7, and his parents and three younger siblings even arrived early Sunday to help clean up the park.

“I was here to pick up garbage for the birds,” Jasper said. “I don’t want no birds getting stuck in wires.”

Beginning at 11 a.m., kids decorated T-shirts and played bird-inspired games. Jasper won two buttons and a poster after he twisted into a pretzel playing “What’s for Dinner,” a version of Twister in which kids listened to clues about a bird and placed their hands and feet on the photos they thought were part of the bird’s diet.

Crystalaura Jackson, a recreation cultural specialist for Clark County Parks and Recreation, said the event also served to remind people not to feed the fowl.

Many geese at Sunset Park have “angel wing,” a joint problem that causes their wings to be permanently outstretched, Jackson said. The deformity is caused by a diet heavy in bread and crackers, which have too many carbohydrates, she said.

“It’s a direct result from growing up on a diet that’s not good for them,” she said. “It’s really sad; they can’t fly when they have that.”

Feeding birds can negatively affect water quality, can cause birds to become aggressive toward people and can even delay migration, because birds won’t leave if they’re being fed, Jackson said.

“Enjoy them, learn about them, take pictures of them, draw them — there’s a lot of ways that you can enjoy wildlife and still let them be wild,” she said.

At another table, Jasper learned that his “wing span” is similar to a northern harrier. He said he would rather be a peacock because they “show their beautiful tails.”

Jasper’s dad, 26-year-old Jeremy Roy, said the event was perfect for his son, who cares deeply about the environment. Jasper and his 4-year-old sister, Isla, bounced from table to table, pointing at photos of birds and insects in shadow boxes and asking questions.

“We’ve just seen him have a very huge interest in animals,” Roy said.

Liz LaRue, 70, sat at a table next to a spotting scope, a sort of short-range telescope used by bird-watchers. She and her husband, who run the website birdandhike.com, were at Sunday’s event to teach people how to use field guides and identify birds.

LaRue and her husband have been bird-watching since they met some 40 years ago.

“It’s something you can do anywhere in the world, spend as much or as little time, you can have tons of equipment — you know, scopes and binoculars — or you can just sit and look,” LaRue said. “It’s just a really neat part of the natural world.”

It’s especially important to get children interested in birds and other wildlife because the environment’s future is in their hands, she said.

“They’re the next generation that’s gonna take over this place,” LaRue said as a duck began quacking obnoxiously 20 feet away. “We cannot survive in cement and steel.”

As of about 1 p.m. Sunday, she hadn’t spotted any uncommon birds at Sunset Park, but she hadn’t given up.

“Everything I’ve seen today is expected, but you never know what’s going to show up,” La Rue said. “So you’ve gotta keep looking.”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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