Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Shorebird Count Lower This Year on Marco’s Beaches

Kim Savides, a contract biologist for the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) is a constant presence on Marco’s Beaches. Her job is to stand out on the beach and talk to the public with her scope and her sign, “Ask Me About the Birds.”

Savides gets a lot of attention from beachgoers. On a slow day, she may talk to about 50-70 people, and on a busy day, she will talk to up to 300 beachgoers during the four hours that she is on the beach. According to Kim, a lot of people are excited learning about the birds.

Kim not only surveys the shorebirds of Collier County and Marco Island, but also provides public education and shorebird stewardship on our beaches. Her survey will contribute to a long-term data set for birds in Collier County.

Kim Savides says that the bird count has been lower this year, as compared to previous years. In previous years, you will usually see a large concentration of royal terns, sandwich terns and black skimmers. Surveys at Tigertail over the last four winters have also shown a consistent decrease from year to year and with lower bird diversity. It could be attributed to red tide, but they won’t know for sure for a couple of seasons.

At the February 20th meeting of the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, Kim made a “State of Birdlife” presentation. She reported that there are 235 species of shorebirds recorded using Marco Island as a habitat. Of the 235 species, 213 of them have been recorded on Tigertail Beach. Most of these birds are migratory as there are very few resident birds that stay in Marco year-round.

There are three species that Kim highlights while on the beach, the black skimmer, royal tern and sandwich tern. Black skimmers have a black top and bi-color bills. They are State Threatened. The royal tern has an orange bill and the sandwich tern has a black bill with yellow tip. The terns can live up to 20 years.

Adam DiNuovo, biologist for Audubon and Rookery Bay, has been banding black skimmers in Marco Island to figure out how long they live and where they go. The black skimmers banded on Marco have a green band (Florida); New Jersey birds have a blue band; Long Island have yellow bands and white bands come from Virginia. Visitors and residents enjoyed making these connections.

One of the most disturbing scenes Kim Savides encounters on the beach are people flushing a resting flock. Black skimmers mostly feed at night and during the day they are out on the beach sleeping and resting. They use a lot of precious energy when flushed. Black skimmers are State Threatened and flushing them is considered an illegal act.

Drones also are becoming a common cause of disturbance for the black skimmers on Marco’s beaches.


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