Snowy plover birds blend into the sand while nesting. Several nests have been discovered on the northern part of Siesta Key. (photo submitted by Audubon Florida).
By John Morton
No more than a dozen snowy plovers are believed to exist in Sarasota County, and a handful are currently nesting on the northern part of Siesta Key – just beyond the public beach.
Kylie Wilson, shorebird coordinator with Audubon Florida, is reminding beachgoers to be respectful of nesting areas that are taped off. The birds are easily disturbed by humans, so it’s best to stay at least 30 meters away, she said.
“We are very lucky to have them on Siesta Key and we want them to stay here,” she said.
The inconspicuous pale little birds are easily overlooked.
“They blend in with the sand, so they aren’t easy to see. Camouflage is this bird’s only defense,” Wilson said. “And they’ll pop out eggs anywhere at any time, right on the beach.”
The annual nesting season runs between Feb. 15 and the end of September.
“They seem to be active early this year, with us finding nests in March,” Wilson said. “With Spring Break arriving, it’s important to get the word out. That area gets busy.”
Unfortunately, the society did indeed report acts of vandalism to local nests in late March.
The bird’s susceptibility to feeling disturbed can cause it to abandon a nest. Wilson said it’s considered a cause of the snowy plover’s dwindling population in Florida, now at about 200.
Dogs aren’t allowed on Siesta Key beaches, and Wilson hopes people will adhere to that rule.
“Dogs are particularly problematic for the birds, even when they’re on a leash,” she said.
The birds typically lay two or three eggs, Wilson said, often one day at a time. Then, they often wait three days to start to incubate them.
“So, even if you see a nest area that’s marked but there’s no bird in it, please stay away. There likely are eggs in it,” she said.
Wilson is looking for volunteers to help with locating nests and offers virtual training sessions. If interested, you can contact her at Kylie.email@example.com or by calling (941) 266-5407.