Black Skimmers are back at St. Pete Beach, where they have once again established a colonial nesting site north of the public beach access. There are currently two separate nesting areas behind the Sirata Beach Resort and Sea Mark Condo. The total number of skimmers reaches well over 400 birds, yet only a few nests have eggs! Black Skimmers make “scrapes” in the sand, which are small depressions, in which they lay 3-4 eggs. Skimmer parents have had a tough time this year defending their eggs against predators such as gulls and crows, so they need a little extra help to make sure they can protect their eggs through the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Tips for Helping the Black Skimmers:
- Keep your distance and respect posted areas. If the birds become agitated, you are too close! Take a few steps back until the bird(s) have settled down. Signs and rope help keep people from accidentally stepping on eggs or chicks.
- Avoid flushing birds. Large flocks of Black Skimmers from the colony sit by the water’s edge to cool off, sometimes with their chicks. Running through flocks will scare the birds, causing them to fly away. This uses up the energy needed to feed and protect chicks. Flightless chicks and eggs will be left alone and vulnerable to predators.
- Leave fireworks at home. Fireworks set off within 1,000 ft of the colony will flush skimmers off their nests and can cause abandonment of chicks, resulting in death.
- Keep pets off the beach and away from nesting areas. Even the friendliest dog will spook an entire skimmer colony.
- Avoid feeding wildlife, especially the gulls and crows. Attracting these predators to the beach and near the colony puts the nests and chicks at risk for predation.
- Spread the word! Tell others what you’ve learned about these incredible birds!
Want to get involved? Audubon Florida is looking for volunteer bird stewards to help educate the public during the busy weekends holidays. If you are interested in learning more about the stewardship program, please email Holley Short (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.FLbeachbirds.org
Photo Credit: Audubon Florida