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Season’s first shorebird nest discovered

BRADENTON BEACH – The first shorebird nests this year on Anna Maria Island have been spotted and marked by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers.

A colony of least terns began nesting the week of May 6 at an undisclosed location in Bradenton Beach. A state-designated threatened species, least terns last nested on Anna Maria Island in 2021.

As of May 9, there were four nests and 10 individual birds, according to Turtle Watch volunteer Kathy Doddridge. When she first came across the nesting birds, there were only two nests.

Once eggs were located, volunteers marked off the area to protect the nests from human and vehicle interaction.

Season’s first shorebird nest discovered
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers have marked off a least tern nesting site in Bradenton Beach. – Submitted | Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

According to Turtle Watch, previous colonies failed due to the presence of cats and crows, both predators of least terns. Keeping cats indoors and covering garbage to keep away crows are important for keeping the birds safe.

Least tern eggs take about 21 days to hatch. Chicks will then look for places to hide so chick huts have been placed within the perimeter of the marked area to provide shelter and shade. Least terns fly 19-20 days after hatching.

Least terns are protected by both state and federal laws.

Turtle Watch asks beachgoers to abide by the following:

• Keep your distance. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet away from a nest.

• Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting and resting areas and use designated walkways.

• Teach children to refrain from intentionally forcing birds to fly. When birds are chased or disturbed, they use energy they need to reserve for nesting and migration.

• Pets are not allowed on AMI beaches. Keep dogs and cats off the beach, as even their scent can frighten birds off nests.

• Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beaches. Litter on beaches can entangle birds.

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