Sparce season for shorebirds on Anna Maria Island

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A scoop of black skimmers takes flight in late May on the beach in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy Pete Gross

“Our shorebird program is almost nonexistent at this point,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said Oct. 26.

Fox said black skimmers, which usually nest early summer and depart for their summer migration in September, did not nest in 2019, but remain in colonies on Anna Maria Island beaches.

She said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is concerned with the unusual behavior and plans to investigate the matter.

The species is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but is not on the federal endangered species list.  It also is protected as “threatened” under Florida’s endangered and threatened species rule.

The black-and-white birds that wear a touch of orange on their beaks can be seen flying low over the Gulf of Mexico, skimming for food in the water along the shoreline.

As of Oct. 31, about 200 skimmers remained in several colonies, moving between Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

Fox said the problem is not just with skimmers. Other migratory birds, including least terns and American oystercatchers, also have not nested on island beaches in 2019.

“We’re just not seeing them anymore,” she said.

She said she is concerned that people are disrupting the birds, by chasing them or otherwise interfering with their habitat.

“We need to educate people about the birds so they understand it is not OK to mess with them,” Fox said. “And with a little help from FWC, hopefully, our birds will be back and nesting next year.”

One thought on “Sparce season for shorebirds on Anna Maria Island

  1. Nicolette Germain

    Are you seriously blaming nature on people? Nature is much more intelligent than man (obviously here) You all cannot be that blind to the increasing toxic environment they have been exposed to in the past couple years. Would you nest on these beaches? I think not. We were there 4 months last year & could not breathe. Our dreams of buying shattered. The uncontrollable algal blooms have killed pets & people & turtles & fish & dolphins etc. … Birds eat fish. It is unbelievable to me that your main government continues to secretly allow this all to happen. You absolutely are so wrong trying to publicly blame people for chasing them away. This is so low … Yes! People are disrupting their environment! By dumping toxins not by walking on your beaches. Who needs educated here?

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