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Shorebird nesting season comes to a close

By Staff | Sep 7, 2016

Black skimmers and royal terns. ALEXIS HORN/SCCF

The shorebird nesting proved to be a little more successful this year compared to last year. Out of the 28 nesting attempts by the snowy plovers, seven nests made it to hatching, producing a total of 17 chicks. Last year only 9 were hatched.

Shorebird nesting season typically runs from February through August. No nesting attempts were made on Captiva this year. The primary reason nesting attempts are higher this year is due to depredation.

“The reason the number of nest attempts for snowy plovers is so much higher this year is that many nests were lost initially to depredation and then the birds re-nested. The second round of nesting attempts were completely wiped out by Tropical Storm Colin. The third round of re-nests were more successful,” said Audrey Albrecht, shorebird program coordinator.

The Wilson’s plover fared much better this year, four chicks fledged even though one of the nests was washed over during Tropical Storm Colin. No chicks fledged last year.

The least terns were not successful again this year at producing any fledglings. The birds formed a nest west of Bowman’s Beach mid-May. A canine ravaged most of the 23 nests on the beach, leaving only six. Two nests hatched and three chicks were observed before Tropical Storm Colin. The remaining nest and chicks were washed away during the storm.

A sanderling eating a sand flea. ALEXIS HORN/SCCF

The birds did not nest on Captiva this year because there is more food available for them on Sanibel.

“Typically the birds will select nesting sites that have a high prey availability. They forage mainly on insects and small invertebrates such as marine worms. Based on past studies done here, there seems to be a higher availability of prey items on the eastern portion of Sanibel, so the snowy plovers tend to nest in higher numbers in that area. The least terns and Wilson’s plovers are more sensitive to disturbance so they favor the quieter section of beach west of Bowman’s,” said Albrecht.