Documents about wading bird populations are being researched to better understand why numbers have plummeted.

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PLANTATION KEY, Fla. -- Researchers at the University of South Florida are taking a closer look at the Florida's wading bird population.

Documents detailing the protection of these birds before the establishment of Everglades National Park are being digitized at the school.

Thousands of game warden records from Audubon Florida's Tavernier Science Center have been delivered to the university library's Florida Studies Collection. The library's coordinator of special collections tells The Key West Citizen that he hopes to have the documents scanned, archived and posted online within a month.

The documents date from 1901 through the late 1940s, when exotic bird feathers were fashionable and bird populations plummeted.

Audubon's Pete Frezza says the records include bird counts, details about weather events such as the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and field notes from a warden believed to have been killed by hunters stalking wading birds for their plumage.

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