Waterbird Nesting Season

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Great Blue Heron and nestlings

Spring is here and with it comes a new generation of waterbirds. As nesting season begins, it is important to recognize the ecological benefits of waterbirds and how to keep them safe. Waterbirds help maintain the diversity of other organisms, pest control, and are effective bioindicators of ecological conditions. They help us understand what is going on in the environment and how it may be remedied.

There are several shorebird and seabird species that nest on beaches where their eggs and chicks can be camouflaged in the sand, like the least tern, black skimmer, and the snowy plover. Although most wading birds nest in the Everglades, Lee County’s mangrove islands, like Sanibel, support a healthy population of wading birds, such as herons.

Biologists emphasize the most important thing for waterbirds during their nesting season is space. If these birds are disturbed and leave their nest then their eggs and chicks can be left vulnerable to extreme weather, predators, and human interaction.

“Small actions can make a big difference for wildlife,” said FWC Florida Shorebird Alliance Coordinator, Shea Armstrong. “By taking a few steps to limit disturbance to nesting waterbirds, we can ensure they have a successful nesting season and that they will be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Snowy Plover and nestlings

In order to protect and preserve these waterbirds and their babies, keep your distance from them on the beach or on the water. Staying at least 300 feet from a nest is an effective general rule to follow. Avoid walking through flocks of birds and recognize their warning signs. If birds are flushing, loudly calling out, or dive-bombing, those are all signals to back off and give them space.

In wild spaces, please always respect the posted areas which include Critical Wildlife Areas that are established to protect wildlife species from human disturbances. These areas are protected because there are wildlife species going through critical life activities like nesting, feeding, or migration. Avoid entering areas specifically marked with signs for nesting birds and when in wild spaces always use designated walkways when they are available!

Especially for beach nesting birds, but also keeping in mind all wildlife and marine species, keep the beaches clean. Litter on the beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife or end up in the ocean. In addition, please never feed wildlife. Even breadcrumbs can make birds sick and food scraps can attract other animals that prey on shorebird eggs and chicks.

If you take your pets to the beach, be sure to keep them leashed and avoid the areas where seabirds and shorebirds may be nesting. Always utilize pet-friendly beaches and be respectful of the rules. These rules are in place for protection of wild animals and spaces.

Lastly, in order to reduce the harmful impacts of fishing gear on wildlife and the marine ecosystem always know what to do if you accidentally hook a bird while fishing. Remember, don’t cut the line: reel, remove, and release! Visit mindyourline.org to watch an educational video on how to safely unhook a bird. It could save a life!

THIS WEEK AT CROW (3/6-3/12):
There were 37 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 13 eastern cottontails, six mourning doves, two eastern gray squirrels, a laughing gull, a great horned owl, a northern mockingbird, a river otter, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a gopher tortoise. Recent Releases include a barred owl, a loggerhead sea turtle, a Florida softshell turtle, three royal terns, two mourning doves and a Virginia opossum. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases! Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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