Monday, December 6, 2021

The Need to Protect Nesting Shorebirds at Sand Dollar Island

Black Skimmers pairing up and scarping—showing nesting behavior.

Winter has come and gone and according to Brittany Piersma, FWC shorebird steward biologist and her winter team educated 1,350 citizens, rescued 17 birds and read 526 bird bands. Piersma emphasized that for this summer nesting season it is very critical to promoting awareness of how we can lessen stress on the nesting flocks on Sand Dollar Island.  

It is well known that Marco Island has one of the biggest nesting colonies of least terns and black skimmers in Florida. Wilson’s Plover is a year-round resident and they are getting into their breeding mode. They are solitary nesters and they don’t like to be near each other. There are sightings of Wilson’s chicks. Females can brood two chicks that are smaller than your thumb. From the sound and sights of terns, plovers and black skimmers, nesting season is in full swing on Sand Dollar Island. 

The Least Terns also have arrived from South America and have paired off with a mate they nested with from the previous year. So, expect chicks soon.

Commonly found trash on Sand Dollar Island: beer cans, tires, crab traps, and assorted plastic.

Black Skimmers have arrived on Sand Dollar Island and are beginning their nesting behavior. Just like the least terns, they are colonial nesters, which means they nest in large groups. For them, there is safety in numbers to defend themselves against predators. Expect Black Skimmer chicks around mid-June. 

According to Brittany Piersma, this is a critical time for all species nesting on Sand Dollar Island. As the temperatures rise and the rainy season begins, it is important for the adult birds to protect their eggs and chicks. Frequent flushing of adult birds exposes vulnerable eggs to both the sun’s heat and to waiting predators such as Crows. Stay off the vegetation as Wilson’s Plover chicks use vegetation to hide and feed.  

Piermas is urging beachgoers to stay close to the water’s edge to give these chicks better survival chance. Eggs are laid directly in the sand and sometimes very difficult to see.  

Reminder for The Upcoming Holiday Weekend 

Please be respectful of wildlife. Dogs are not allowed on Marco’s beaches and on Sand Dollar Island. A loose dog can wipe out a nesting colony in a matter of seconds.  

How can you help:  

  • Respect posted areas on Sand Dollar Island. 
  • Keep your dog at home. 
  • Take your trash back with youthey attract predators such as raccoons and crows. 
  • When visiting Sand Dollar Island, watch the nesting colonies from a distance. 
  • Join a Beach Clean-up.

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