Learn To Identify Shorebirds with SCCF Biologist

by SC Staff Writer Reanna Haase

Black-bellied plover on the beach. SC photo by Kyle Sweet

On the count for World Shorebird Day the week of Sept. 7, there were more than 25 different species of shorebirds documented on Sanibel Island. World Shorebird Day is an important time because 50 percent of shorebird species are in a decline and there is a need to bring awareness to the public, according to the Shorebird Conservation Society.

There will be Shore Bird ID guided walks and a virtual presentation in October that will go over how to identify these 25 different species and more. They will be taught by Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht. The virtual presentation will be from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 13.

“We will be talking about all the shorebirds on our beaches that includes… things like Sand Pipers, Plovers, Terns, and Gulls,” said Albrecht. “It can be really confusing for people, so we are hoping to help people get a better handle on who they are looking at out there.”

During this time of the year, these birds are in all different plumages. Some are in breeding plumages, and others have molted out, when birds shed their worn feathers. So, Albrecht will show how to identify these different shorebirds.

When identifying birds, Albrecht shared they often notice that some continue to come to the same spot every year, this is called site fidelity.

“For example, we have this one little Sanderling, it’s one of the little Sand Pipers you see running along the beach. You know you don’t think anything of it,” said Albrecht. “This one particular individual has a little flag on his leg, so we know which one it is, and he spends every Winter here. He goes up to the Artic and comes back to Sanibel every year.”

Sanibel has a good habitat, and the island does not suffer from bad red tide compared to other places. These shorebirds tend to go where they can find food, so they may come here instead of their preferred location due to better availability of food.

Audrey Albrecht, SCCF Shorebird Biologist and Coastal Wildlife Manager

“Red Knots for example are a threatened species, they were added to the endangered species list as a threatened species in 2014 and they are moving through right now,” said Albrecht. “Some of them will stay here and others will go all the way to the Southern tip of South America.”

Albrecht said this class was first offered last Winter, but due to the pandemic, a lot of people missed out on this event. Along with the virtual presentation on Oct. 13, there are two walks scheduled from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. You can sign up for both the virtual presentation and the guided walks by clicking here.

“Hopefully there will be birds to look at,” said Albrecht. “We will try to go to the lighthouse, there tends to be a lot of shore birds in that area… basically anything we see we will just use what we learned in the class and try to identify.”

Both walks will be on the beach at the Sanibel Lighthouse, located at the tip of the east end of the island. SCCF Shorebird Intern Aaron White said this area of the island was selected for the beach walks because it has the most variety of birds and this portion of the island is very accessible to the public.

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