Shorebird populations around the world are in decline due to development, habitat loss, pollution, and human disturbance.
Sanibel's Nesting Shorebirds
Snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) are tiny and well-camouflaged in beach habitats, which helps protect them from predators but leaves them vulnerable to disturbance. They are threatened in Florida.
The Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) is a medium-sized shorebird that inhabits beaches in the southern U.S. and coastal South America. They have black bills and a full brown collar.
The world's smallest tern, Least terns (Sternula antillarum) have a striking yellow bill and hard-to-miss black cap. They breed along both U.S. coasts and into South America.
Snowy Plover Program
Sanibel is home to multiple pairs of Florida's breeding snowy plovers, making it a highly important nesting site.
SCCF’s snowy plover program began in 2002. During nesting season, staff and volunteers monitor the beaches daily to mark and protect nests. Once the chicks hatch, they are monitored until they can fly.
Snowy plover facts
- Snowy plovers nest and raise their chicks from February to August
- They create a small depression in the sand called a scrape, which serves as a nest
- The female lays three eggs
- The male and female take turns incubating the eggs
- Chicks hatch about a month after the eggs are laid
- Snowy plover chicks can run and feed themselves within hours of hatching
- Dad is known to stay with the chicks until they are able to fly (about a month after hatching)
How can you help snowy plovers?
- Respect signed nesting areas. Snowy plovers blend in and are very difficult to see. The posted areas prevent beachgoers from accidentally trampling the eggs in a nest.
- Honor Sanibel's leash law. These birds view dogs as predators, and an unleashed dog can destroy nests and kill hatchlings.
- Be a respectful photographer. Keep your distance, don't linger more than 10 minutes, and avoid flushing birds.
- Don't litter. Food can attract predators, and plastic can entangle or kill birds.
- Symbolically adopt a snowy plover