Monday, October 25, 2021

Shorebird Nesting Season Starts on Sand Dollar Island

Black skimmer with three chicks. Expect black skimmer chicks around mid-June.

Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) recently presented the last lecture of its series on Marco Island’s amazing wildlife, at Mackle Park.

Adam DiNuovo of Audubon Florida was the guest speaker on the beach nesting shorebirds of Marco. He has been working with shorebirds and seabirds on the East, West and Gulf Coasts for 20 years. For the last four years, Adam has been a biologist with Audubon Florida (AF) and also the Collier Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Program Manager for AF.

Marco Island has many protected bird species on Sand Dollar Island. According to Brad Cornell of AWE, “Marco Island has one of the biggest nesting colonies of least terns and black skimmers in Florida.”

The Wilson’s plover, least terns and black skimmers are starting their breeding behavior on Sand Dollar Island. These birds make small indentations in the sand called scrapes and lay their eggs out in the open. Sometimes there is a bit of vegetation for camouflage and shelter.

The Wilson’s plover is a year-round resident and they are starting to get into their breeding mode. They are solitary nesters, which means they don’t like to be near each other. They are now actively defending their territories and will most likely be laying eggs in the next 7-10 days.

Things to look for on Sand Dollar Island: If you just sit, watch and wait, you will be able to observe the Wilson’s plover dance, 15-20 feet from you. The male (with dark neck band) flattens its back and prances around on its tippy toes. He will repeat this dance multiple times for the female.

Within 15 days of the dancing routine, usually the female will start to lay eggs. The male will make indentations in the soft sand and the female will lay an egg every day till a third one is laid. They start to sit on the three eggs. Once the chicks hatched and feathers are dry, they are self-sufficient and begin to feed mostly on fiddler crab. Expect Wilson’s plover chicks in early May.

The least terns are starting to arrive from South America with hundreds sighted on Sand Dollar Island. Sounding like a chorus of squeaky toys, they circle, figuring out where they are going to nest. A lot of times, they will pair off with a bird they nested with from the previous year.

Least terns and black skimmers are colonial nesters, which means that they nest in large groups. They use “safety in numbers” to defend themselves against predators. Expect least Ttrn chicks around mid-May and black skimmers chicks around mid-June.

Andrew Tyler, a lecture attendee, found Adam’s content “excellent, and enjoyed Adam’s sense of humor during the lecture.”

Save the Date: Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 9-11 AM at the Tigertail Beach kiosk. A beach nesting bird steward and training is scheduled. To RSVP and for more information, email:


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