If you have not yet had a chance to meet the 2023 Redington Shores Black Skimmer colony, allow us to introduce you! They began settling down in early May in the bustling area of the public beach access. The colony has grown to about 400 birds and at this point they have about 110 nests!
Settling down in between the two public beach accesses has unfortunately made them subject to many disturbances from people and predators. Volleyballs, footballs, beach balls, trash blowing away from beachgoers, and small children that got away from their parents are just a few examples of things that have made their way through the posted area and into the colony. These types of things cause the skimmers to flush away from their nests and leave their eggs vulnerable to predators like crows and gulls. Dogs, kites, drones, paragliders, and even shaking sand off a towel too close to the colony will also cause the birds to flush.
During the heat of the day, the skimmers like to go down to the water to cool off. You’ll see that a large portion of the colony (those who are switching off shading eggs with their partner) hang out by the shoreline for most of the day. It gets very hot up by the dunes, and it’s important for them to have this time by the water to cool off. Walkers and joggers down by the shoreline are cause for disturbance to the resting skimmers. Being mindful of this and walking up on the beach and around the resting birds will greatly reduce stress. Remember if the birds are moving or flying away from you, you are too close!
The residents and visitors to Redington Shores have been very supportive of the skimmers and are helping them along their way through the nesting season. To help keep the skimmers and their nests safe, please keep your distance and be mindful of anything that may disturb the colony. Secure all trash and beach balls, remind children to give the birds space, and keep all dogs off the beach. Volunteer bird stewards will be out educating the public about the birds to help minimize the amount of disturbances to the skimmers.
Interested in helping the Black Skimmers? Become a bird steward with Audubon Florida! You can help educate the public and help the birds through nesting season. We are always looking for volunteers and will need as much help as possible for the Memorial Day weekend. If you’d like to learn more about the stewardship program, please email Holley Short (email@example.com) or visit www.FLbeachbirds.org.
JUNE 16, 2023 UPDATE
The Redington Black Skimmer chicks are hatching! Almost two weeks ago, we began to notice tiny, gangly puffs of down appearing from underneath some of the skimmer pairs. And so began the ongoing struggle of keeping the chicks safe and healthy. Skimmer chicks will be guarded by their parents for about 30 days before they learn to fly on their own. In that long month, they will be confronted with many obstacles. They’ll need to dodge constant dive bomb attacks from crows and gulls, evade nighttime stealth attacks from coyotes and raccoons, endure humans getting too close for photos, fend off trash, beach balls, and umbrellas flying in from the side, and brave kites, drones, and paragliders creating panic from above.
Black Skimmers are a State Threatened species and are classified as Imperiled status. Without intervention, most of these nesting colonies would never have a chance for success. Conservation efforts help the skimmers by providing education to the public, surveying colonies, collecting and interpreting data, and providing fencing and signs to alert the public of potential disturbances. While predation is a serious cause of loss of eggs and chicks, human disturbances including recreational activities, development surges, and increased foot traffic are also major factors contributing to population decline. As more and more people pour onto Florida beaches, the skimmers are at a much higher risk for these disturbances leading to habitat loss and decreased nesting success.
If you visit the skimmer nesting site by the Redington Shores public beach access, you’ll notice informational signs placed in the parking lot and leading up to site by the walkway. There are also “Bird Xing” signs in front of the posted nesting area going down to the shoreline. These signs are to help keep curious, roving chicks safe from foot traffic. The “Walk Around Us” signs at the shoreline are there to help the resting skimmers cool off by the water during the day without constant disturbances caused by walkers, joggers, bikers, etc. If you are walking along the shoreline and come across these signs, please walk up onto the beach around the resting birds and use extra caution while walking through the chick crossing area.
The nesting skimmers are extremely sensitive to dogs and they will flush off their nests, leaving chicks vulnerable to heat and predators, if a dog comes anywhere in the vicinity of the nesting area. Even carrying a small dog will cause the birds to flush. As a reminder, please abide by the city ordinance and keep all dogs off the beach!
We are always looking for volunteers who would like to come out on the beach and help the skimmers have a successful nesting season! Audubon Florida volunteer stewards are dedicated to conservation and are passionate about educating the public about birds in need. If you are interested in joining our team of volunteers, please email our Shorebird Program Manager Holley Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit FLbeachbirds.org for more information.