Shorebird nesting season officially began at Rookery Bay Research Reserve this week with the closure of Second Chance Island Critical Wildlife Area, just off Cape Romano in the southern section of the Reserve.
Boat landing, people, dogs and fishing are strictly prohibited from March 1 –August 31. Rookery Bay staff worked together with partners at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida to place closure signs all along this small stretch of beach.
The island plays a huge role in the survival of endangered migratory beach nesting birds including Wilson’s Plovers, terns and Black Skimmers. By closing the island, the Reserve helps these birds, their fragile eggs and chicks survive and thrive in the hot summer months. The eggs are extremely tiny and the chicks only as big as cotton balls, blending in with the sand and shells – perfectly camouflaged. Barrier islands and sandbars (including Second Chance Island) offer birds and chicks an extra layer of protection from land predators including racoons, disturbance from people and domestic animals (such as unleashed dogs).
Tips to Share the Shore with Nesting Birds
- Follow Signage – Avoid beaches that have signs warning of a bird colony or advises people to avoid the area during nesting season. Honor these closed areas and encourage others to do the same.
- Keep Your Distance – When you see a large number of birds on the shore, stay at least 500 feet away. Minimizing disturbance to concentrations of birds is the key to conserving them.
- Leash Dogs – When visiting the beach, never approach a bird colony with your dog. One loose dog can destroy a colony of beach nesting birds in minutes.
- Do Not Force Flight – If you see birds on a beach, island or sandbar, walk or steer your boat around them. Avoiding disturbing them is the best approach. If parent birds fly away and leave their eggs or chicks, the babies will not survive in the Florida heat and sun, may be crushed or taken by predators.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.