Protect Siesta Key’s Snowy Plovers

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Featured Image: Snowy plover chick, photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Not far from the hustle and bustle of Siesta Key Public Beach is a small strip of land vital to a feathery friend you probably haven’t even heard of. Until I read Sarasota Magazine’s article on it, I hadn’t. It’s no secret that Florida is home to a variety of beautiful, rare wildlife, but for this birdie, it’s literally a sanctuary. In the Sunshine State, the snowy plover is a protected species.

It’s a small bird that lives on white sandy beaches, and according to the FWC, in our state it nests along the Gulf coast. (I know, don’t we wish we could all be so lucky?) However, this puts the birds in a good bit of danger. Not just from predators, but from us humans.
Snowy plovers dig small holes in the sand to nest and lay anywhere from two to four eggs. They’re flighty birds though, and they will abandon their nests if a human or dog gets too close. According to Sarasota Magazine, beachgoers who come within 100 feet are enough to scare the parent-to-be bird away. 100 feet! To put that into perspective, stand the length of a basketball court away, and you’d still be too close.

Not all hope is lost, though. Lee Amos, the Conservation Foundation’s land steward, lays out some ideas in the magazine article. The ideal situation would be to have part of the beach separated from people and dogs, but that’s not something that exists on Siesta Key. An alternative is to clear away small openings in the vegetation. Making it open sandy beach snow plovers need, but the vegetation surrounding them would act as a buffer from humans and pets. Currently, it’s not possible because the vegetation is protected as well.

In the meantime, though, we can all do our part. Just pay attention to the signs north of Siesta Key’s Public Beach, and keep your distance from the nests. I know I will.

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