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Charlotte Harbor Colonial Waterbird Nest Monitoring and Protection Program

The Charlotte Harbor Colonial Water Bird Nest Monitoring and Protection Program is a cooperative effort of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves office, J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Audubon of Florida, Lee County, and volunteers.

Wading birds are an important indicator species for the health of the estuaries since they feed at such a high trophic level. Their indicator species status and dramatic decline since the 1930s makes their protection a necessity. Surveying and documenting trends in wading bird populations will help document the preservation of biodiversity in the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves.

The program:

  • Includes monitoring islands in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass.
  • Provide robust peak estimates of nesting efforts for each species found in the aquatic preserves.
  • Provide long term protection recommendations and monitoring techniques.
  • Data collected is analyzed and submitted to the South Florida Water Management District for publication in their annual South Florida Wading Bird Report. The report is used to follow trends in wading bird activity and to estimate the number of nesting wading birds in Florida.

Monitoring is done by visiting each island once a month during the nesting season starting as early as February and continuing as late as October. The methods used are direct counts of nesting pairs or nests on the islands by boat. Surveying is done while slowly circling the island and using high powered binoculars.

Bird monitoring volunteers
Staff and volunteers at the 2008 training

The colonial wading birds and diving birds observed nesting in the aquatic preserves are the anhinga, double-crested cormorant, brown pelican, great blue heron, little blue heron, great white heron, green heron, tricolored heron, black-crowned night-heron, yellow-crowned night heron, great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, reddish egret, and white ibis.

Volunteers play a vital role in the monitoring and protection program. With the help of volunteers the aquatic preserves staff are able to cover larger areas and monitor more islands. Volunteers are trained at the beginning of each nesting season so that everyone is consistent in their data collection techniques.

Contact the Charlotte Harbor office at (941) 575-5861 for more information and volunteer opportunities.


Last updated: April 12, 2013

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