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Annual Wading Bird Report Shows Ray of Hope for South Florida's Birds

South Florida Wading Bird Report documents one of the highest nesting counts since 2009

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sean Cooley, Communications Manager, (850) 999-1030, 

MIAMI (March 29, 2018) – Today, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) released its annual South Florida Wading Bird Report. It reported one of the highest wading bird nesting counts since 2009. For a brief summary, check out Audubon Florida's fact sheet on the report.

Compared to the 10-year average in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem:

  • Wood Stork nesting increased 83 percent, but very few Storks nested in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary;
  • White Ibis nesting increased 13 percent;
  • Great Egret nesting increased two percent;
  • Little Blue Heron nesting increased 62 percent;
  • Snowy Egret nesting decreased 54 percent;
  • Tricolored Heron nesting decreased 18 percent;
  • Roseate Spoonbill nesting was slightly below average. However, low nesting in Florida Bay represents one of the lowest breeding season totals since the beginning of data collection. 

“The 2017 numbers represent a ray of hope for the future of wading bird populations in America's Everglades, but with some of the key indicator species still in decline, it is a reminder that our work is far from over,” said Celeste De Palma, Audubon Florida’s director of Everglades policy.

The high counts observed in 2017 are a result of hydrologic patterns that resembled near-historic water conditions in the Everglades. Where the water levels were right, the birds responded favorably. However, areas like Florida Bay that depend on improved freshwater flows to support large Roseate Spoonbill breeding colonies still show decline. The same applies to the overdrained wetlands of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which are critical breeding grounds for Wood Stork colonies.

“Though the count was one of the highest in nearly a decade, the underperformance of special wading bird historic strongholds like Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Florida Bay, should put the impetus on accelerating Everglades restoration efforts to get the water right for the entire watershed,” De Palma added. “In a fully restored River of Grass, wading birds in these areas should be nesting by the thousands. Speeding up Everglades restoration and protecting quality foraging habitat is key to giving the birds their best chance to face increasing challenges like sea level rise and fluctuations in rainfall patterns.”


For more information, read Audubon Florida’s fact sheet on the South Florida Wading Bird Report.

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