Just like our “snowbird” human friends, many of the real snowbirds have made their way onto our beaches and are enjoying Marco Island’s warm and sunny weather. Some birds have flown thousands of miles to get here. They are here to rest, eat and gain weight for the next leg of their journey. But, there are risks for these high flying wonders of nature.
Along the way, they have encountered harsh weather, the loss of critical feeding areas, predation, pollution and diseases. Sadly for some, this is the end of the journey.
Adam DiNuovo and Allie Smith, both from Audubon of Southwest Florida, have been busy patrolling the beaches and critical wildlife areas counting the early arrivals and re-sighting banded birds. At Second Chance, a critical wildlife area, both have encountered signs of peregrine falcon predation. Common Terns and Sandwich Terns were showing the side effects of red tide. They started picking up the ones they could catch for a trip to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida wildlife clinic. It seems that red tide waslingering offshore.
On Sand Dollar Island, as migratory birds forage closer to shore, there have been reports of them showing signs of red tide. According to Jean Hall, a Shorebird Steward, “It is always an ominous sign if you see a tern or a black skimmer standing off alone.” Birds like to be in a flock for protection, so that’s an immediate red flag.
For beach goers, things to avoid are throwing anything at the birds, running through a resting flock, walking too closely to resting birds, feeding birds and, if you are fishing, avoid casting your line while birds are around.
This is the time of year to be on the lookout for sick or injured birds. According to DiNuovo, it is not normal behavior if a bird hops away, wobbles and falls, or is shaking, appears weak or is upside down and kicking. Every attempt should be made to capture and save the bird. A bird is sick or injured if it is struggling to stand, sitting alone, dragging a wing, bloodied, visibly entangled in fishingline or injured by hooks, or can’t move and is shaking.
Both DiNuovo and Smith suggest that if you have a small towel, wrap the sick bird and cover its head which calms them down. Terns can give you a good nip. They also suggest bringing a cloth grocery bag on your next walk on the beach. You can carry it over your shoulder and can transport several injured or sick birds at a time.
If you only have your cell phone, please take a photo of the sick or injured bird, note its location and any nearby landmark, and send a “Save a Sick Bird” message to Adam DiNuovo at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Wildlife Clinic has local volunteers, called Critter Couriers, who will come out and collect the bird from you. They are open 365 days a year from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM and can be reached at: 239-262-2273(CARE).
Critter Couriers from The Conservancy will come collect injured birds. They are open 365 days a year from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM and can be reached at: