Spinnaker Dr. and Hernando Dr, Marco
MARCO ISLAND — This one really is for the birds.
Potentially, hundreds of pairs of least terns, black skimmers and snowy plovers, which are soon expected to descend on Marco Island’s Tigertail Beach to nest for the summer, to be exact.
To ensure the maximum number of birds have the best chance of nesting without being unwittingly disturbed by beachgoers, four areas on Sand Dollar Island off Tigertail Beach have been roped off.
Another, off Caxambas pass to the south of the island, was due to be roped off today.
Project coordinator Ricardo Zambrano, along with four other biologists from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, have spent the past few days sinking signs along the beach, and also placing wooden decoy birds within the conservation areas.
The decoys, Zambrano said, act as reassurances for real birds.
The annual program has been in place since 1988, Zambrano said, and should last until the end of August, when the birds make their exits.
Egg survival rates are fairly good.
“The birds can mob predators (such as crows or falcons), and scare them off,” Zambrano said.
Raccoons can also be a problem, but they aren’t too prevalent around Sand Dollar Island, he said.
The least tern is considered a threatened species and is protected by FWC due to its declining population. It is also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Estimates put Florida’s least tern population at about 10,000 birds. They are found only in the western hemisphere. Least terns winter in Central and South America and arrive to nest and raise young on Florida beaches in late March.
Black skimmers are considered a species of special concern and snowy plovers are considered threatened.