“Yip, yip, yip!” The sound of seabirds greeted me as I crossed a strip of grassy dunes and was met by the sandy expanse of Lido Beach and the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The sands were dotted with loafing seabirds called Black Skimmers and, upon closer inspection, their grown chicks, nearly ready to fly for the first time.
Black Skimmers are characters of the seabird world. Handsome creatures with stark black backs and hoods that contrast against a crisp white belly, skimmers are a bit
Stationed at the edge of the colony, scanning the birds through binoculars, I found Greg Taylor, Shorebird Project Coordinator for Audubon Florida.
Taylor monitors the skimmers as well other seabird colonies on Lido, Longboat and Siesta Key, that line the coast of nearby Sarasota where the birds raise their young over the course of the season. These nesting seabirds return
Black skimmers are a state threatened species, explains Taylor, “we only have about 3,600 left in the state.” The Lido Beach colony is made up of about 700 adults, he says, which makes up about 20 percent of the entire population of the species.
Nesting seabirds face many challenges, being that they nest on beaches, competing for
At this point in the summer, most of the chicks on the Lido colony are large enough that predation is now less of a concern. But
As the nesting season is winding down the chicks grow in their flight feathers in place of the downy fuzz of their youth. Their coloration is a
“We have about two-hundred and fifty chicks on the ground,” says Taylor, “so the colony has been successful this year.” Much of this can be attributed to the efforts made by Taylor and the volunteers, who patrol the outskirts of the colony daily and educate beachgoers about the birds and the issues they face.
Skimmers and other seabirds aren’t just affected by humans or predators, they also face a future of rising sea levels due to climate change which could mean the loss of the sandy beaches that they require for nesting. That is why our continued monitoring and protection of these birds is crucial, as is the education to raise awareness about these birds and the dangers they confront every day.
The crisp white and black of the birds contrast beautifully against the emerald waters as they cavort through the air. Soon their young will join them and grow into adulthood to one day raise young on the very same beach where they were hatched. So long as these important habitats are protected, we can hope to enjoy these birds for countless seasons to come.
-Never enter areas posted with shorebird/seabird signs.
-Avoid driving on or beyond the upper beach.
-Drive slow enough to avoid running over chicks.
-Keep dogs on a leash and away from areas where birds may be nesting.
-Keep cats indoors, and do not feed stray cats.
-Properly dispose of trash to keep predators away.
-Do not fly kites near areas where birds may be nesting.
-When birds are aggravated, you are too close.