Bird Strike Committee Proceedings


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Presented at 2011 Bird Strike North America Conference, September 12-15, 2011, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.


Copyright 2011 Ann Hodgson


Study Area - Florida’s Gulf of Mexico Coast – ~200 miles Levy County to Charlotte County & N. Lee County

Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries Colonial Waterbird Management Program

Annual Program Activities

  • Nesting protection: spring & summer nesting season - Posting, planning, coordination
  • Comprehensive colony protection & project management, habitat restoration projects – throughout year
  • Conservation and policy initiatives – throughout year
  • Survey data allow tracking population trends

Brief history of the colony survey program

  • Management program since 1930s, focused on a few colonies
  • Sporadic surveys before 1980s
  • No coherent regional survey
  • First comprehensive survey in Tampa Bay 1984-1985
  • Found 22 active bird colonies – at least 11 of which have winked out because they were disrupted or abandoned
  • ~59,000 pairs on 5 colonies that no longer support large populations:
  1. Fantasy Island 15,000
  2. Port Manatee Key 4,000
  3. Bayway Spoil 30,000
  4. Tarpon Key 2,000
  5. Passage Key 7,500
  • Birds moved to other colony locations
  • Survey area increased in 1990s, found more colonies and added them to the survey schedule
  • Widened survey area to more counties, higher level of effort, more partners

Program emphasis on colonial waterbirds – messengers for conservation, indicators of ecological integrity, charismatic wildlife of Florida

Nomadism vs. migration

  • Regional waterbird populations are not migratory; instead, they are nomadic – centered on nesting colonies during the nesting season, and searching for forage the rest of the year
  • Least terns, most shorebirds – migrate annually
  • White pelicans – breeding adults migrate, non-breeding young birds may over-winter

What do waterbirds need to complete the cycle?

  • Food – the right forage – aquatic and terrestrial macro-invertebrates (larvae & adults) •& SMALL fish
  • Water – quantity and quality; young may need or benefit from freshwater, even though adults are estuarine nesters
  • Cover – for nesting, hiding, & foraging
  • Space – Home range – generally not defended by waders Territory – defended nest site

And, for successful nesting – birds need no disturbance, no predators