Saturday, January 22, 2022

Red Tide = Dead Tide?

Photos by Maria Lamb |
Common tern, looking very healthy, suddenly becoming ill after feeding. What’s causing the bird die-off from our beaches?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, four dead dolphins were towed from Marco Island beaches, along with a mature dead male loggerhead sea turtle. It was also reported that about 15 dead dolphins also washed ashore in Naples during this same timeframe.

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “There was a spike of 22 bottlenose dolphin mortalities over the holiday weekend in Lee and Collier counties. Experts suspect it is red tide. A total of 92 bottlenose dolphins in Southwest Florida are confirmed dead from the red tide in an Unusual Mortality Event declared by NOAA.” Kim Amendola of NOAA said that 16 of those dolphins tested positive for red tide. “We suspect this is likely the cause of death for the others,” said Amendola, “however final test results may take weeks to months to get back.”

Birds have been dying on our beaches in record numbers. Adam DiNuovo of Audubon Florida has been picking up dead birds since November 11. Per his count, he averaged about five birds per day. He brought the birds to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s wildlife clinic, and unfortunately, 92% did not survive. DiNuovo is puzzled at the fast rate of mortality.

In Marco, large flocks of migratory birds have claimed our beaches to rest, eat and gain weight. It is very disturbing to observe both residents and visitors engaging in a most destructive manner “flushing them” either to get that perfect photo, or just because “they can.”

Joanna Fitzgerald of the Conservancy remarked that, “This is the worst bird die-off in 25 years.” The state is testing for the cause of these avian deaths.

To add insult to injury, the county-employed beach raker has been observed going through and flushing the colony of sitting birds. According to Kathy Eil, known as the Shell Lady, the raker “goes along the high water mark and has run over and killed several birds that couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.”

Gary McAlpin, Director of Coastal Zone Management for Collier County, has reassured Kathy Eil that he will “take care of the problem with the raker.” McAlpin also added that “The beach raker’s supervisor will ride with him to make sure he is doing a good job and staying in compliance with all environmental concerns and constraints.”

Save Our Sick Birds: If you encounter a sick bird, please take a photo of the bird with your phone and note its location on the beach. Email the message to Adam DiNuovo of Audubon at or text him at 413-896-4751.

Caution: For beachgoers with respiratory issues avoid going to the beach and if you do, bring your inhaler.


If you encounter a sick bird, please take a photo of the bird with your phone and note its location on the beach.Email the message to Adam DiNuovo of Audubon at or text to 413-896-4751.

One response to “Red Tide = Dead Tide?”

  1. Rosemary Tolliver says:

    Just curious why they are even raking the beach instead of leaving it natural.

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