Bird harassment complaint investigated

bird harassment snowy plover
A family of five snowy plovers, including three chicks and a parent, have been frightened off their nest. - Pete Gross | Submitted

HOLMES BEACH – An unidentified woman has frightened two snowy plovers and their three chicks off their nest at 5400 Gulf Drive condos, and they have disappeared, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox said.

“It’s a little three-ounce bird. What difference could that make to you?” she said.

Snowy plovers are a threatened species in Florida.

It’s possible the chicks were old enough to fly away, Fox said hopefully, but if they were not yet fledged, they would be easy targets for predators, such as osprey, without parents nearby to protect them.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent an investigator, but the woman, who was reported to Turtle Watch by anonymous witnesses at Martinique condos next door, eluded detection, she said.

Why would someone chase tiny birds off the beach?

“We suspect it was the woman who accosted us last year,” Fox said, referring to an incident that occurred when Turtle Watch volunteers were staking off a black skimmer nesting area at 5400 Gulf Drive condos in 2017.

“She came out and yelled at us,” Fox said, adding that volunteers always leave a path for people to reach the beach when staking off bird nesting areas.

“And it’s a public beach,” she said, not private property belonging to 5400 Gulf Drive condos.

“We think she just didn’t want any wildlife in her front yard,” Fox said.

The act was a violation of state laws protecting threatened species, and it was also a case of cruelty to animals, Fox said, adding that the witness said the woman struck one of the birds.

Normally Turtle Watch volunteers track at least 11 snowy plovers on the Island, but this year, only the family of five were seen, and they have disappeared, she said.

No other plover nests have appeared on the Island this spring.

“It makes me sick,” Fox said.