Census of endangered shorebirds Friday

Audubon of Florida spokesperson Monique Borboen informed local Historic City News reporters that on Friday, February 4th, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and their partners will survey 170 miles of Florida’s beaches counting Piping Plovers.

The coastline from the border of Georgia to Cape Canaveral will be canvassed by boat, land vehicle and foot to determine the population of Piping Plovers and other birds that spend their winters on our beaches.

The total species population of Piping Plover is estimated at about 8000 birds. In the 1980s, the species was deemed at risk of facing extinction and was federally listed.

Piping Plovers are tiny, light-sand colored birds, with bright yellow legs. They feed on marine worms, crustaceans, insects and other small invertebrates. They rest on the upper part of the beach, camouflaged in the sand.

Fort Matanzas National Monument and, more sporadically, Anastasia State Park are popular wintering sites for the birds.

“The Piping Plover census, which occurs every five years, helps the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assess the effectiveness of the species Recovery Plan” said Billy Brooks, a wildlife biologist. “The extra data collected helps us better support land managers’ efforts to protect imperiled shorebirds and to design effective bird conservation projects”.

In addition to federally listed Piping Plovers, Red Knots, which are in dramatic decline, and shorebirds like Sanderlings, Dunlins, Semipalmated Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers and other species, use Florida beaches for up to eight months a year, while they are not nesting in the far north.

They feed at the water’s edge at low tide and often rest on the upper beach at high tide.

“Red Knots, Wilson’s Plovers and Piping Plovers are our target species for this survey, as they are the species of wintering shorebirds the most of conservation concern” said Brooks.

Audubon of Florida says that Historic City News readers can help in the recovery of Piping Plovers by following some simple steps to help avoid disturbing them when they are here:

-Walking around birds: As all of us, shorebirds need to feed and rest in peace. Please avoid flushing birds when you walk/bike/drive on the beach. Every time they fly up, birds expend precious energy and burn their fat reserves. These reserves are essential fuel for them during their migration back to their nesting grounds.

-Keeping dogs away from the birds: birds see dogs as predators and will be disturbed by dogs at further distance than by people

-Avoid throwing balls and Frisbees or flying kites near the birds: birds see these flying objects as aerial predators; please stay a good distance away from birds when you fly kites or do similar activities.

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