Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Chicks of Sand Dollar Island


 

 

According to Ricardo Zambrano, a biologist for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there are approximately 400 least tern nests and 600 black skimmer nests at the tip of Sand Dollar Island. These birds lay an average of two to three eggs in a season. Last year, the Sand Dollar Island nesting colony had the largest least tern and black skimmer collection of nests in the entire state.

June marks a special time at Sand Dollar Island. You will find tiny chicks scampering alongside their mothers, who hover over them, protecting each move. You also may witness a feeding frenzy – when parent birds leave the

June magic at Sand Dollar Island: Newly-hatched least tern chicks. Photos by Jean Hall

June magic at Sand Dollar Island: Newly-hatched least tern chicks. Photos by Jean Hall

nest to retrieve small fish for their hungry offspring.

On June 15, the first black skimmer chick hatched. In only a few days, Sand Dollar

Island was transformed into a scene worthy of National Geographic. But, as magical as the scene is, this is also nature at its most vulnerable. The hot sun will bake an unprotected chick in minutes; adult parents flushed from the chicks can leave them vulnerable to the crows. According to Zambrano, the biggest threat is dogs running loose through the colony. Last year, the colony survived a tropical storm. Our job as stewards of our environment is to make sure these chicks get

Mom is very protective of her chick, staying very close by.

Mom is very protective of her chick, staying very close by.

to fly off and come back to this strand of sand when they are ready to breed.

“People can still enjoy the beach while keeping shorebirds and their chicks safe,” says Nancy Douglass, who works on the shorebird conservation at FWC. “Following a few simple steps while at the beach can have a tremendous positive impact on shorebirds. People’s actions can directly affect the success of shorebird nesting and whether future generations will get to see these iconic birds along our coasts.”

Ways to Share the Beach with Nesting Shorebirds: If birds become agitated it is a signal to back-off. Teach children not to chase

Unattended chicks are very vulnerable to the heat and predators.

Unattended chicks are very vulnerable to the heat and predators.

shorebirds and kindly ask fellow beachgoers to do the same. It is best not to take dogs to the beach. But, if you do, keep them on a leash. Keep the beach clean – food attracts predators. Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting birds, report their activities to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert

Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922),

#FWC or *FWC on a cell phone or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com. Enjoy the magic – a legacy of Mother Nature. Let’s all do our part to make sure we protect

Marco’s unique wildlife for future generations.

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