Audubon Florida News

Topic: Birding,Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

Fishermen’s Tips for Releasing a Hooked Bird

posted on August 13, 2014 in Birding,Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

Pelican treble hookWherever fishermen and birds overlap, sooner or later a bird gets hooked or entangled in fishing line. What happens next will determine the fate of the bird:  If the fisherman cuts the line, the bird likely will die from starvation, as its capacity to forage is impaired, or dehydration, if the line becomes entangled in the trees at its roost site.  Or a savvy fisherman will reel the bird in, set it free, and save its life.  But to protect him or her self from the bird, which will flap long wings, squawk loudly, and snap its beak, a fisherman needs to take some basic precautions:

  1. Put on sunglasses or other eye protection.
  2. Enlist a partner to help with controlling the bird.
  3. Grasp the bird’s head firmly and then cover the eyes with a towel, shirt, or even a hat to calm it.
  4. Fold the wings up and secure the feet, holding firmly.
  5. Cut off the hook’s barb and back the hook out. This removes the hook without causing more damage to the bird.
  6. Check the bird for other hooks or line and remove them too. Often a bird has been hooked before.
  7. Put the bird on the dock, facing the water and step back. A feisty bird is likely to survive.
  8. If the bird is seriously injured, has swallowed the hook, or doesn’t fly, it should be taken to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator. Call the Wildlife Commission 1-888-404-3922 for one near you.

Congratulations! You have saved the life of a bird!

What to do if you hook a pelicanFor the brochure “What to do if you hook a pelican!”, click here to download or see page 12 of the 2014 Florida Saltwater Recreational Fishing Regulations.

For hard copies of the brochure contact Ann Paul,



Kissimmee River Restoration Adventure with the Everglades Coalition

posted on August 8, 2014 in Birding,Everglades,North Everglades,Water Issues

Kissimmee EvCo tourWhere can you see Swallow tailed Kites, numerous Everglade Snail Kites, Limpkins, Wild Turkeys, and one Roseate Spoonbill within hours on the last day of July? Try the newly restored section of the Kissimmee River.

Last week, Audubon enjoyed partnering with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to tour the Kissimmee River Restoration Project with over thirty of our environmental allies at the annual Everglades Coalition Retreat. The Everglades Coalition  is comprised of over 50 environmental organizations, including many of our closest friends in the conservation community. It was a great opportunity to get out with friends to see the magic of this restoration project.

Kissimmee Avon kiteKissimmee River Restoration started in 1992. It is now over 90% complete. In the 1960’s, the Kissimmee River was channelized into a large canal for flood control. This huge canal drained the water from miles of important habitat for birds and other wildlife. The Kissimmee River restoration project reestablishes miles of the natural winding Kissimmee River, and restores miles of wetlands and floodplains in the Northern Everglades. Already, populations of birds are higher than what was even projected for post restoration.

And, the project is not even operating at full capacity yet. Once it is complete and operating in a few years, the results should be stunning.

Audubon’s Dr. Paul Gray and SFWMD’s David Colangelo showed us areas of the restored river and floodplain. The winding oxbows of the restored rivers were vibrant with paul kissimmeevegetation.

Endangered Everglade Snail Kites and Swallow-tailed Kites were all around.

We could hear the cackles and laughter of Limpkins just yards away in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.

Many thanks go to Everglades Coalition co-chairs Cara Capp of National Parks Conservation Association and Jason Totoui of Everglades Law Center for making this trip happen! It was refreshing to get out and enjoy this special place together.



Least Terns Experience Fourth of July in Northeast Florida

posted on July 5, 2014 in Birding,Northeast Florida,Wildlife

July 4th was a busy weekend on the beaches of northeast Florida, for humans and terns alike. The Least Tern colonies from Nassau to Flagler counties all seemed to fare the fireworks and beach goers well. Some of our chicks even look like they may fledge very soon! Please spread the word to family and friends to share the beach the rest of the summer as our feathered friends continue to raise their young.


Boots on the Ground in the Bahamas: Search for Piping Plovers

posted on April 16, 2014 in Birding,Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

Piping Plovers at roost; Andros, Bahamas. Photo: Lindsay AddisonThe 2011 International Piping Plover Census turned up 1,075 plovers on just a few islands in the Bahamas – about 13% of the global population. In February and March 2014, National Audubon dispatched several teams of staff biologists to look for Piping Plovers and other shorebirds overwintering on Acklins, Andros, Crooked, Long, and east Grand Bahama islands – places previously not searched. Marianne Korosy, Audubon Florida’s IBA Coordinator, joined Lindsay Addison of Audubon North Carolina and Kerri Dikun of Audubon New York and staff biologists from the Bahamas National Trust for a full week of surveys in the North and Middle Bights of Andros Island with a weekend trip to the Joulter Cays. Total number of Piping Plovers tallied for the week – 206, with 11 birds previously banded and each with a story to tell.

Mount Pleasant Fishing Lodge, Andros, Bahamas

Expectations were high when we arrived at our home base on North Andros – the Mount Pleasant Fishing Lodge, with comfortable cottages right on the beautiful blue Caribbean shoreline. Andros is famed for its bonefish flats and throngs of international tourists provide a living for Bahamians that operate lodges catering to bonefisherman and scuba divers. But we were after a much rarer “prey” – globally imperiled Piping Plovers.

Andros is trifurcated by tidal estuaries – called “bights” – that connect the east and west coasts. Within the bights and surrounding the main islands are hundreds of small cays and mangrove islets, shoals, coral reefs, and tidal creeks providing many square miles of bonefishing paradise and, we hoped, foraging and roosting areas for a mother lode of Piping Plovers.

Scanning shorelines and mangrove prop-roots for Piping Plovers and other shorebirds. Photo: Lindsay AddisonBeginning on the evening of our arrival, and for the next four days, our crack Audubon team and expert guides from the Bahamas National Trust combed dozens of cays and shorelines spanning the 20-mile width of North Bight and Middle Bight and areas along the eastern coast of North Andros.

The first day’s boat-based search was a super start: 20 Piping Plovers foraging on a flat at the mouth of Cargill Creek on mainland North Andros and a short while later, we counted 38 Piping Plovers foraging on the sandy mudflats of Big Wood Key in North Bight. 

Piping Plovers foraging on Big Wood Key. Photo: Lindsay Addison

The next few days were a bit slower. We targeted islet coastlines that appeared to be exposed at low tide on aerial maps but, once there, we found the majority of the island shorelines to be coral rock with vertical scarps, acres of stunted red mangroves, and shallow flats covered with seagrass – perfect for bonefishing but not for foraging shorebirds. Hour after hour we scanned shorelines from the boat or on foot using binoculars and spotting scopes.

Scanning shorelines from the boat. Photo: Lindsay AddisonThe good news? We were able to rule out large areas of the bights as unsuitable habitat so future searches need not cover the same areas.

What we found: American Oystercatchers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Willet, Sanderling, Least and Western Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Wilson’s Plovers, Royals Terns, and several species of wading birds. Bottlenose dolphins and green sea turtles joined us one day in dead-calm waters and huge red starfish dotted the shallow areas on many islands. .

Nest of a Bahama Woodstar hummingbird. Photo: Kerri Dikun

A brief stop at an upper-crust lodge on Broad Shad Cay gave us up-close looks at a colorful Caribbean rock iguana, a Bananaquit, and a once-used nest of a Bahama Woodstar hummingbirdA highlight of our journeys included two Reddish Egret nests with two nestlings in each. The second nest had one dark morph and one white morph nestling – a first for all of us!

White and dark morph Reddish Egret nestlings. Photo: Lindsay Addison

On day 4 we walked five miles of the eastern shoreline of Big Wood Cay at low tide. We found broad expanses of beautiful sand flats and coral rock with live coral, urchin and fish-populated tidal pools, a sea hare, and several small black-tipped sharks at the shoreline — but no Piping Plovers.

Low tide hike, Big Wood Cay.

That evening we were ferried to the northern area of North Andros and spent the next three nights at a lodge named “Love at First Sight”Dawn broke the following morning with a light rain that continued most of the day. Not to be deterred, we hoisted scopes and daypacks over our raincoats and hiked down the Queen’s Highway – Andros’ only paved highway – to hunt for Piping Plovers in North Blanket Sound. Scored: 14 Piping Plovers and other shorebirds under a sky full of swirling Bahama Swallows.Scoping Piping Plovers in the rain; North Blanket Sound, Andros. Photo: Lindsay Addison

In addition to shorebirds, Andros is home to West Indian native and endemic birds and a host of Neotropical migrants that spend their winter in the upland Caribbean pine forests, salt scrub, and coastal hammocks.

Bahama Oriole. Photo: Lindsay AddisonAlthough our primary focus was shorebirds, we perused coastal hammocks along our target beaches logging colorful life-birds such as Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Greater Antillean Oriole, Western Spindalis, Bahama Woodstar, Cuban Emerald, Cuban Peewee, Loggerhead Kingbird, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Thick-billed Vireo, Black-faced Grassquit, Red-legged Thrush, Bahama Yellowthroat, and Bahama Mockingbird.

Marianne Korosy discusses Piping and Snowy Plover habitat differences with Audubon and BNT Board members and staff. Photo: Kerri Dikun

The week came to a close with Lindsay, Kerri, and I on a boat trip to the Joulter Cays, accompanying Matt Jeffery, Deputy Director of Audubon’s International Alliances Program, and several Audubon and Bahamas National Trust Board members and senior staff. Our two organizations are working in partnership to map and census waterbird species that will support designation of Global Important Bird Areas and National Parks such as the Joulter Cays. We found Piping Plovers – 126 of them – roosting on two sandy shoals with some other bird species we hadn’t seen previously: Marbled Godwit, Dunlin, and Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls. What a grand finale!

Piping Plovers. Photo: Kerri DikunAll in all, our team tallied 206 Piping Plovers on Andros’ islands; 11 of them were color banded. What did the bands tell us? Ten of the 11 birds breed on the northeast Atlantic coastline: five in Massachusetts, two in New Jersey, and one each in New York, Rhode Island, and Maryland. The eleventh banded Piping Plover breeds in Michigan, the only one confirmed from the Great Lakes population. Flyway connections established by resighting these special birds, and their large numbers, are the gold currency of the Audubon-Bahamas Trust partnership. Long may it live!

Winter American Oystercatcher Surveys – Big Bend Gulf Coast

posted on March 12, 2014 in Birding,Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

American Oystercatcher in flight. Photo: Pat LearyPat and Doris Leary are avid birdwatchers and citizen scientists from Fernandina Beach, FL, who volunteer their time and substantial skills to survey coastal waterbirds in Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and Florida’s Big Bend. This is the fifth blog in which they share their experiences and sightings as well as the challenges these increasingly imperiled birds face.  

Given this winter’s weather, there were few opportunities to conduct gulf surveys under safe and favorable boating conditions. When light winds and full moon tides occurred in mid-February, we seized the opportunity to return to Cedar Key and conduct another series of surveys. Two productive days bracketed a blustery Saturday that suppressed the flood tide and kept us off the water.

Banded Piping Plover, Rattlesnake Key. Photo: Pat LearyOn Friday, February 14th, we surveyed Cedar Key’s west side where we found 664 American Oystercatchers (AMOY) dispersed across several roost sites and thousands of mixed shorebird species including 188 Marbled Godwits and five Piping Plovers.

Several pairs of resident AMOY were already occupying their nesting territories. Waterfowl were in abundance with large flocks of Buffleheads and Lesser Scaup rafted on the open gulf and solitary Common Loons noted in several areas. A visit to McLamory Key disclosed a recent visit by mink along the narrow sandy shore. This reclusive species is currently the subject of a FWC research project in our northeast Florida region.

Fortunately, we saw no disturbances from raptors and the large concentrations of shorebirds remained on their favored roost but in highly compact flocks. This behavior required us to stand on submerged portions of occupied shell rakes in the chill gulf waters to count the birds and scan for markers on the bird’s legs.

Doris Leary scans shorebird flocks offshore. Photo: Pat Leary

In Saturday’s predawn hours, yet another weather front passed through the region bringing a return of gusty NW winds.  We returned to Cedar Key but immediately realized the brisk northerly winds were suppressing the flood tide and discouraging roosting behavior. As we entered town, we observed large numbers of Dunlin, Willet and Least Sandpiper foraging on the

Dunlin and sandpiper flock, Cedar Key. Photo: Pat Learyexpansive mud flats along the roadside that should have been flooded. We also noted several resident Osprey pairs occupying their conspicuous nest in the crowns of large pines adjoining the highway.

Due to the adverse conditions we aborted our survey and returned home along SR 347 that passes the Lower Suwannee Refuge office. We decided to stop and visit the refuge’s large bat house and hike the river trail. The bat house adjoins the entrance road and is detectable by a rather pungent odor that discloses its occupation by hundreds of bats crowded between the narrow vertical partitions. Nearby is the access to the short river trail and long boardwalk passing through a flooded cypress swamp. Despite the mid-winter date, we found one small cypress tree beginning to leaf and tiny colorful wildflowers blooming near the trail exit.Bat box, Lower Suwanee NWR. Photo: Pat Leary

Sunday morning dawned with much calmer conditions and we returned to Cedar Key to complete our surveys on the east side of the town. Launching early on the flood tide, we found large flocks of AMOY roosting on the maze of exposed oyster bars east of Live Oak Key, but few other species were evident at that tide stage. Before we could approach the resting oystercatchers, they began flushing and flying into the interior marshes to resume foraging as the flooding oysters became vulnerable to the birds’ probing beaks. This circumstance required us to wait until the flooding waters compelled the shorebirds to abandon their foraging habitats and seek roost sites in the open gulf.  At one point, we ventured into the shallow and hazardous marshes cautiously winding our way between the abundant bars.  We collected a few band codes from foraging oystercatchers and noted numerous, smaller, shorebirds roosting precariously on the sharp-edged oysters that were rapidly disappearing beneath the rising tidewaters.

American Oystercatcher flock. Photo: Pat LearyWhen we observed oystercatchers departing the marsh for the outer gulf, we quickly returned to a primary roost site to set up and await the arrival of more birds. Very soon afterward, flock after flock of oystercatchers arrived and we began recording numerous band codes. On other rakes in the distance we noted concentrations of other shorebirds and, once we collected all the banding data, we motored over to those sites to identify and count the species. On one submerged rake, we found a dense flock of 275 American Avocets and a few Ring-billed Gulls, but in all other locations, we found mixed flocks of densely-compacted shorebirds that made for problematic species counts. Well offshore, on Corrigan’s outer reef, we noted periodic flushes of dense “clouds” of smaller shorebirds and when we approached the area, we noted thousands of Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, and Least Sandpiper amassed there.

Sunday’s field work ended our gulf surveys for this trip. Horseshoe Beach in Dixie County and the barge canal spoils on the boundary with Citrus County will become our primary focus on future surveys as the season come to a close in March

A wild violet (Viola palmata). Photo: Pat LearyA wild violet (Viola palmata). Photo: Pat LearyA wild violet (Viola palmata). Photo: Pat Leary


Florida’s mid-winter survey: 39,000 shorebirds and counting!

Black Skimmer flock. Photo: Jacqui SulekThe February 7 – 16, 2014 time window for Florida’s annual mid-winter shorebird survey is at the half-way point. So far, team leaders reporting online have logged shorebird and seabird counts for 85 beach sections around the state – a total of 39,452 birds! This is Florida’s only synchronized, statewide winter survey and volunteer citizen scientists contribute mightily to the results.

Foot and boat surveys along the majority of the state’s coastal beaches within a narrow window of time provides a snapshot of the numbers and locations of imperiled bird species, “watch” species, and the opportunity to record band codes and combinations for researchers wanting to know where northern breeding birds spend their winters. Winter surveys help us locate foraging and roosting hotspots and develop strategies to protected those special places.

Bonaparte's Gull. Photo: Susan BergmanTallies of the five focal species in this year’s survey to date are: 588 Red Knots, 375 Snowy Plovers, 216 Piping Plovers, 144 Wilson’s Plovers, and 65 American Oystercatchers. Many of us think that Bonaparte’s Gulls are an unusual winter find on Florida’s coasts but volunteers have reported a whopping 1,926 birds so far. The count for Great Black-backed Gulls stands at 48 and the count of Lesser Black-backed Gulls is 52 at the survey half-way point.

Volunteers are also using their seawatching skills to tally near-shore pelagic seabirds and diving ducks, with 424 Northern Gannets, 326 Horned Grebes, and 11 Red-throated Loons!
Survey crew at Three Rooker Island. Photo: Dana KersteinAnd these are just a snapshot of the counts recorded online with many beach sections remaining to be surveyed on dates through the final weekend of February 15th and 16th. The count’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional coordinators are collecting data sheets that team leaders elected to send by snail mail or email. Help us help the birds by completing your surveys and reporting the data online, via email or snail mail. For more information consult the Florida Shorebird Alliance’s Winter Shorebird Survey protocol online.



Common Loons at the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay

posted on February 6, 2014 in Birding,Chapters,Wildlife

Common Loon by Lauren DeanerLauren Deaner and Cameron Cox followed up on reports of large numbers of Common Loons at the Skyway Bridge and found even more than they were expecting.They counted 231 in the Manatee section of the south causeway, then 73 more in the Hillsborough section for a total of 304, a very impressive number.

The Lower Tampa Bay IBA is a BirdLife International/National Audubon site recognized for its global significance for birds and Tampa Audubon Society, @St. St. Petersburg Audubon Society, and Manatee County Audubon Society members are working with the Skyway Pier State Park staff and the fishermen customers to help protect birds from death and injury caused by fishing line and hooks.

Do you love birds? Then why not spend some time with them on Valentine’s Day?

Orange-crowned Warbler in a backyard bird bathClean those binoculars, grab your notebook and get ready to head outdoors because you are invited to join the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count!

WHAT:  The GBBC  – A four day window each year where people all over the world take time to count birds and report what they see.

DATE:  FEB 14-17, 2014

TIME:  Any time when you can spend a minimum of 15 minutes (hopefully more) at one location

Enjoying birds outdoors

WHEREYOUR BACKYARD or one of Florida’s Special places (outdoors of course)

WHY:  Because capturing a snapshot each year help scientists understand the impacts of a changing planet on bird populations.  Your observations make that possible.

In its 17th year, the Great Backyard Bird Count known affectionately as the GBBC will once again bring birding enthusiasts from around the world together to create a snapshot of the birds that live with us. This citizen science project is the perfect way to bring together birders of all experience levels.  Go it alone or join a group of friends.

Chipping Sparrows at a backyard feederAnd for those of you who are camera buffs, THERE IS EVEN A PHOTO CONTEST!

To find out how to get started and much more, please click here and watch the instructional video about GBBC’s history, how to contribute your data via the ebird program and the scientific and conservation value of your participation.

You might just have a sweetheart of a time!

Help Protect Florida’s Nesting Birds

GREG courtship Rick GreenspunSome birds such as cormorants, Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are already nesting in Florida, so it’s not too early to consider actions to help birds raise their young successfully.

We ask everyone — boaters, nature photographers, bird-watchers, hikers, kayakers, beach-goers — while you are near bird nesting colonies, including the nesting islands, beaches, and shores, to avoid disturbance and to set a good example for others.

NY Times FL pop graphAs Florida’s human population increases, protection of our natural resources — both the wildlife and the habitats that support it — becomes more challenging. It will take all of us working together to ensure that the special and spectacular bird populations, fish, dolphins, manatees, turtles, and all the other wildlife denizens of our community survive in the future. It is both our responsibility and our sacred trust.

These days, with the innovations in digital cameras and lenses, many people can enjoy nature photography and share their experiences. But because this activity has become so popular, it’s critical that the places that we value and the wildlife we love are protected for the future. Intrusion and disturbance of birds at nest, roost, and forage sites when they are most vulnerable must be avoided to ensure future generations of Floridians and visitors can enjoy nature’s spectacle.

For more information:

Visit for tips on what you can do as a home and yard owner to assist bird populations.

Visit for information about what Audubon Florida is doing to protect birds, other wildlife and habitats in our state.

Visit for American Birding Association’s code of birding ethics.

Visit for the National Association of Nature Photographers’ ethical practices guidelines for the Florida Shorebird Alliance photographer guides for comments from local nature photographers on how to ethically capture images while respecting

See for a commentary from Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries’ staff Ann Paul and Mark Rachal about disruptive nature photographers.

Join Audubon for the 2014 Statewide Mid-Winter Shorebird Survey

Fort Matanzas winter bird survey. Photo Monique Borboen .The annual winter survey period is right around the corner – February 7-16, 2014.

Team leaders are organizing volunteer survey crew members to walk miles of Florida’s beautiful coastline during this 9-day period, tallying numbers of shorebird and seabird species. If you can readily identify these species, WE NEED YOU! If you want to learn to identify Florida’s wintering shorebirds and seabirds or if you want to improve your skills, WE NEED YOU! 

Teams will be counting Piping, Snowy, Wilson’s, Semipalmated, and Black-bellied Plovers, American Oystercatchers, a Federally Endangered Piping Plover in winter plumagemultitude of sandpiper species including Red Knots, several species of terns and gulls, Black Skimmers, and others. The data is reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as to state and local park managers. This is an annual statewide survey that could not be accomplished at this statewide scale without the help of citizen scientists. Team leaders will enter the data in a Google spreadsheet so that anyone interested can see what other teams found across the state.

No experience is necessary to join an experienced team in your area. Some teams may be transported by boat to barrier islands for the surveys but most will be surveying beaches accessible from the mainland. Most teams will walk a minimum of 1-2 miles. Come on out and join other citizen scientists for Florida’s one-time annual winter shorebird survey!

American Oystercatchers roosting at high tide. Photo: Pat Leary

For information on how you can get involved with surveys in:

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