News Releases

City of St. Augustine partners with FWC to protect nesting shorebirds

News Release

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Media contact: Greg Workman, 352-732-1225

Photos:  https://www.flickr.com/gp/myfwcmedia/7u34T1 External Website

The City of St. Augustine is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to help protect nesting shorebirds. The city has agreed to provide transportation to Florida Shorebird Alliance volunteers, known as bird stewards, to help prevent human disturbance during the nesting season. Partnerships like this are essential in helping protect imperiled species in Florida.

Bird Island, also known as Julia’s Island, is an important nesting site for least terns, American oystercatchers and Wilson’s plovers. Because they are free of predators like raccoons and foxes, island locations are ideal for nesting shorebirds. However, these attractive sites are also popular recreation areas for boaters, who sometimes are not aware that imperiled birds nest on the island.

Least terns and other beach-nesting birds are sensitive to human disturbance. Camouflaged eggs in “nest scrapes” on the beach can be unwittingly trampled by beachgoers. The mere presence of people or dogs in nesting areas can flush birds and expose eggs and chicks to the hot sun and predators, leading to nest abandonment. Flightless shorebird chicks are also vulnerable when dogs wander into nesting areas.

“We want to thank the bird stewards for their valuable work, which is an essential element to ensure people understand what the posted areas are for and why it’s important to leave beach-nesting birds undisturbed,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “The help of our partners is critical to our efforts to protect wildlife when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Bird stewards also monitor and report on shorebird nest numbers, which helps give biologists a statewide picture of shorebird nest numbers and distribution.

 “When we became aware of the need, we realized we could play an important role in helping imperiled shorebirds on the island,” said Sam Adukiewicz, harbor master with the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. “We are happy we could be a part of this important conservation effort.”

Audubon also plays an important role by recruiting and training bird stewards for this site and others along the northeast Florida coast.  “In addition to protecting these imperiled species, volunteers help beachgoers appreciate this important part of our natural heritage,” said Chris Farrell with Audubon Florida. “Bird stewards, like Julia’s Island regular Jean Rolke, are especially important when nature deals these birds a tough hand. High tides and storms have overwashed much of Julia’s Island; protecting the remaining portion of the colony is critical.”

Julia’s Island is located inside St. Augustine Inlet, about half a mile south of the Vilano Boat Ramp. About 150 pairs of threatened least terns nested there in 2015.

For more information on shorebirds and what you can do to help, visit MyFWC.com/Shorebirds or visit FloridaShorebirdAlliance.orgExternal Website



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