State wildlife biologists close some Marco-area beaches to protect shorebirds

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Biological Technicians with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission post signs blocking off beach areas to help protect nesting shorebirds at Marco Island's Sand Dollar Island  on Tuesday April 9, 2013. Nesting species include the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson's plover.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Biological Technicians with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission post signs blocking off beach areas to help protect nesting shorebirds at Marco Island's Sand Dollar Island on Tuesday April 9, 2013. Nesting species include the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson's plover.

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Kristina Shope, a Biological Technician with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ties lines blocking off beach to help protect nesting shorebirds at Marco Island's Sand Dollar Island  on Tuesday April 9, 2013. Nesting species include the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson's plover.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Kristina Shope, a Biological Technician with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ties lines blocking off beach to help protect nesting shorebirds at Marco Island's Sand Dollar Island on Tuesday April 9, 2013. Nesting species include the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson's plover.

Video from NBC-2

— Signs were posted Tuesday to close some Marco Island-area beaches to help protect nesting shorebirds.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists posted the signs to temporarily close some beaches. The state agency said in a statement that the areas will remain closed until the end of nesting season in mid-August or until nesting is complete, whichever comes first.

State biologists closed sections of Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, known as Sand Dollar Island, as of Tuesday. Portions of the Marco Island beach just south of Tigertail Beach will close starting in mid-April, state officials said.

Four species that nest in these protected areas are the least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and Wilson’s plover. The least tern and snowy plover are listed as state-threatened and the black skimmer is a state species of special concern.

Unlike in prior years when the beaches closed for nesting, this year the agency won’t mark off the Caxambas Pass Critical Wildlife Area because the island remains mostly underwater from last year’s tropical storms, agency officials said.

“Since these birds have one fewer nesting site this year, it’s really important that we carefully protect the remaining locations to sustain a stable Southwest Florida shorebird population,” agency biologist Ricardo Zambrano said in a statement.

Biologists say the birds nest in the open and lay their well-camouflaged eggs directly on the sand, making them nearly invisible to predators and humans who may accidentally step on the nests without knowing it.

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