COLLIER COUNTY — Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will post signs and close some Collier County beach areas to help protect nesting shorebirds. Portions of Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, known locally as Sand Dollar Island, will be closed as of April 7. Caxambas Pass Critical Wildlife Area, portions of Marco Island Beach and portions of Keewaydin Island will be closed as of April 8. The four species that nest in these protected areas are the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson’s plover.
The FWC is joined in this effort by the City of Marco Island and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Approximately five acres (south of Tigertail Lagoon) of Marco Island Beach will be temporarily closed for nesting season. Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff will post signs and close approximately five acres on the southern tip of Keewaydin Island. The area will remain closed until the end of nesting season in mid-August.
FWC biologists, with the help of volunteers, manage these areas to maximize nesting success for these species. Nesting areas will be closed off with “symbolic fencing,” which consists of signs connected by twine and marked with flagging. These closed areas protect the nesting birds from unnecessary disturbances and protect their nests from being accidentally stepped on. All of these species nest in the open and lay their well-camouflaged eggs directly on the sand, making them nearly invisible to predators and to the untrained human eye.
The closed areas on the beaches may change or shift throughout the nesting season, depending on where the birds have chosen to nest at any given time.
If you would like more information about Florida’s shorebirds, go to the "Living with Wildlife" area under MyFWC.com/Wildlife, and download the "Co-existing with Florida's beach-nesting birds" brochure.