Note: In accordance with Governor DeSantis' "stay at home" order," Audubon Florida staff are not engaging volunteer bird stewards to chaperone nesting birds on coastal beaches. Staff continue to search for on-beach nests with county permission, and mark active nests with posts and signage to protect eggs and chicks as nesting progresses.
On a sunny, windy day along Siesta Key in Florida’s Sarasota County, Program Coordinator Kylie Wilson spotted a pair of shorebirds nearly camouflaged against the sandy beach. Snowy Plovers! Looking closely, she smiled: this state-Threatened species had laid one of the first nests of the spring and summer breeding season.
Snowy Plovers are members of the small shorebird family known as “peeps.” They can be found along Florida’s coastlines year-round, nesting in dune ecosystems that regularly face development pressure, disturbance, and predation. These tiny birds can live to be 15 years old!
Because of multi-colored bird bracelets attached to her leg, Wilson knew that the female was banded as a fledgling in 2017, the only Snowy Plover chick to successfully fledge from Sanibel Island that year. After community scientists spotted the plover in Pinellas during the winter, she landed on Siesta Key for the 2018 breeding season. Returning in 2019, she made four nest attempts but was thwarted by predators. By nesting so early this year, Wilson hopes she will have better luck.
“We refer to this little lady as ‘Ms. Sanibel,” Wilson explains, “She was our champion nester last season! Everyone was rooting for her as she astounded us by laying nest after nest. She certainly has a tenacity that sets her apart.”
She continues, “With fewer people on the beaches, we are hoping that she will have a more successful season this time.”
Bird monitoring programs provide critical information about the success of each nesting season, and also which habitats draw birds year after year. Using band resight and nesting data, Audubon Florida works with local, state, and federal stakeholders to protect important bird areas now and into the future.