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Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve - Wading and Diving Colonial Nesting Birds Quick Topics

Wading birds have a high aesthetic and recreational value to humans and their reproductive performance is a crucial aspect of their population dynamics. From 1977 until 2008, bird rookery monitoring was conducted sporadically, and a variety of survey methods were employed. In 2008, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve staff and volunteers began a monthly nest count of all active and historically active islands. Direct count surveys were conducted by slowly circling each island with a boat at a safe distance so that nesting birds will not be disturbed. Objectives of the current program include: to provide peak estimates of nesting effort for each species of colonial nesting bird; to monitor population trends; to document movement of colonies; to document human disturbance and bird fatalities due to fishing line entanglement; to reduce the number of entanglements and fatalities due to fishing line and trash within the bay; and to provide recommendations for long term monitoring of nesting wading bird colonies in the aquatic preserve.

In order to improve nesting success, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve staff have organized exotic vegetation removals on nesting islands, and fishing line and trash clean-ups within the bay. These exotic vegetation removals and clean-ups are scheduled outside of the nesting season to avoid disturbing the birds.

Education is another important component in improving nesting success. Colonial nesting wading birds are particularly susceptible to local human disturbances. Many recreational activities within the aquatic preserve happen within the 100 meter (109 yards) buffer suggested for nesting wading birds. For example, several wading and diving bird nesting colonies within the bay have been impacted by human disturbances including camping on active nesting islands, ecotour boats flushing colonies multiple times a day, pirate cruise boats firing blank cannons next to active colonies, and photographers entering colonies and climbing trees to photograph nesting birds and chicks.  

Efforts to provide the public with information on safe wildlife viewing procedures and proper boating distances to rookery islands are ongoing, and the large number of seasonal residents and vacationing visitors in the area demand that educational efforts be maintained continuously.

Pelican chicks

Last updated: December 18, 2015

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