The City of Marco Island is part of the Florida Shorebird Alliance, a partnership that includes Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), City of Naples, Collier County Government. and Sherriff’s Office, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), Sea Grant, The Conservancy of SW FL, Inc., Friends of Tigertail and Collier Audubon Society. The goal of this Alliance is to support these entities involved with volunteers management, materials and information to improve public outreach and education, while monitoring and protecting resting and nesting shorebird populations. Due to smaller staffs and budgets in all entities, the Alliance is an economic and reasonable way to continue conservation efforts throughout Collier County.
Marco Island has four of the seven most important nesting areas for the federally listed and protected shorebirds, Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Wilson Plover and Snowy Plover. Three of the sites are monitored and managed solely by FWC due to their state designation as Critical Wildlife Areas. The fourth area, which in the past two nesting seasons, has become the largest nesting site for Least Terns and Black Skimmers, is located outside of the Sand Dollar Island CWA and on the main beach of Marco Island, typically located between Beach Monuments R-138 and R139. The past two seasons, the area has been marked in somewhat of an emergency response. This season, the Alliance will be posting earlier with press releases in the newspapers and other outlets for educational outreach to the public.
Posted areas are temporary, and remain between mid-April through late August, the shorebird nesting season. If grasses or vegetation grows during the posting period, it will be removed by the rake operation after the nesting season, restoring this area of beach to the original condition. Posting a nesting area is required by federal and State rules (Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Act) and consists of posts, string, flagging and signage. Volunteers are being asked to spend time near a posted area to provide informational handouts, answer any questions from beach goers and provide an opportunity to view the birds’ behaviors and just hatched chicks through a scope.
Nancy Richie is the Environmental Specialist for the City of Marco Island, you can reach her at 239-389-5003.