SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Local bird experts are noticing a disturbing trend. The populations of various bird species around Sarasota beaches are declining and beachgoers may be part of the problem.
It’s Kylie Wilson’s job to check parts of local beaches that have been sectioned off to protect birds during nesting season. While birds such as the black skimmer and the least tern have been increasing on Lido Key, she says one bird in particular -- the snowy plover -- is disappearing from Siesta Key.
“The snowy plover is a solitary species, so it’s a male and a female that defend a small territory and that has a much higher risk because you just have two birds trying to protect that nest,” explained Wilson.
Predators such as crows and gulls are causing much of this decline, but there is also another threat. “Human impact has a huge impact on nesting birds. We do see a lot more use of Siesta Key Beach. A lot more trash that attracts those crows, gulls and predatory birds,” said Wilson.
Rachel Pettit with Save our Seabirds agrees. She sees injured or sick birds on a daily basis due to fishing lines. “So we do have a lot of intake from Siesta and Lido, not necessarily because they are such a large bird population but because that’s where people are. I hope in the future that we can educate the public more about the importance of preserving their natural habitat,” said Pettit.
Bottom line, says Wilson, to ensure the safety of protected bird species, keep dogs off the beach and respect those posted areas. “Even if the birds are outside of the posted area it’s still not OK to harm or harass them.
"If a bird is outside the posted area, don’t run after it, don’t chase it. We get a lot of people that like to chase the skimmers because they’re in a large group, but that causes them to expend energy that they need to really catch fish and raise their chicks.”
The penalty for harming these birds is a second degree misdemeanor and anyone who intentionally kills one could face a third degree felony.