[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Sanibel biologists working to protect snowy plover


Sanibel biologists working to protect snowy plover

Mar 30, 2011 6:12 PM EDT


They're a common sight to see on Sanibel Island, but experts say the snowy plovers could become harder to track if their nesting season doesn't go well.

The snowy plover is considered by many to be an adorable bird. But there are not many of them left.

"There are only about 440 individual birds in the state of Florida," said biologist Joe Caouette,

And about 20 percent of those birds live here in Southwest Florida. That is why the threatened species gets extra protection on Sanibel Island during their nesting season.

"Why would you take a chance of losing them when it's such a minor thing to help them survive?" asked tourist Cathy Forslund.

From February to August, the birds will nest. Then the hatchlings fledge - or attempt to fly away.

They are both crucial times in the birds' lives - especially when their numbers are so low.

Last year, 23 baby birds hatched on the island and biologists say only seven were strong enough to fledge.

During those fragile times, biologists with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation rope off the nests to protect the tiny birds.

"We try not to encroach too much on the beach and impede on the beach traffic," said Caouette.

Beachgoers we spoke with say the 20 by 20 meter enclosure doesn't put a damper on their day in the sand.

"The compromises should cut a little in favor of the wildlife," said tourist Bob Williams.

Along with compromising a stretch of beach, biologists ask you to stay out of the enclosure and to keep dogs away from the little birds as well.

You're also asked not to chase the birds on the beach because they may be looking for a place to raise their new families.

By Katie Johnson

NBC News

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