Wading Bird Nesting In Key U.S. Area Plummets 39 Percent Below 10-Year Average

Friday, January 11, 2013
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
- photo by Owen Deutsch

One of the nation’s largest and most important wading bird breeding areas – south Florida, which includes the Everglades National Park – has seen wading bird nesting plummet to levels 39 percent below ten-year averages, according to a new report by the South Florida Water Management District. This weather-induced decline bucks a trend dating to 1985 of growing bird populations in South Florida as a result of restoration of water flows in the Everglades, and reaffirms the need for speeding completion of the project.

The report says that an estimated 26,395 wading bird nests were initiated throughout south Florida during the 2012 nesting season which constitutes a 39% decline relative to the decadal average, and a 66% decline relative to the 77,505 nests for 2009, which was the best nesting year on record in south Florida since the 1940s. While the 2012 number is comparable to that of 2011 (26,452) and 2010 (21,885), it is the third consecutive year of relatively poor nesting effort in south Florida.

"These numbers are alarming because we are talking about extremely important bird breeding grounds on a national level and we’re looking at three years of poor breeding success,” said Kacy Ray, Beach Nesting Bird Conservation officer for American Bird Conservancy, one of the nation’s leading bird conservation organizations. “Restoring water flows in the Everglades will re-establish prey production and availability across the landscape that, in turn, will support the return of large successful wading bird colonies to the traditional rookeries downstream.”

All species of wading birds suffered reduced nest numbers relative to the past ten years, but the extent of the decrease varied among species. Of particular concern are nesting failures of the endangered Wood Stork which declined 44%; White Ibises (39%) and Snowy Egrets (56%) also suffered significant declines. There was also limited nesting by Little Blue Herons and Tricolored Herons (only 89 and 412 nests, respectively), which continues a steep and steady decline in nesting activity for these two species during the past eight years.

The federally Endangered Wood Stork fared particularly poorly and it is thought that all 820 nests failed or were abandoned. By contrast, anecdotal observations suggested that Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and White ibises in ENP were relatively successful. Another region that experienced poor nesting success was Lake Okeechobee where most colonies experienced complete or extensive nest failure.

This contrasts with long-term trends showing population increases for Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, White Ibis, Small White Heron, Great Blue Heron, and Roseate Spoonbill. Wading bird breeding patterns in south Florida are driven largely by hydrology through its influence on the production of prey and their vulnerability to predation. The 2012 breeding season was preceded by several drought years followed by a relatively wet season. Such conditions generally limit the production of small fishes that the birds feed upon.

“To restore and manage for wading bird populations in the Everglades, the right amount of water at the right time and the right place is needed to optimize the availability of aquatic prey species (small fishes and crayfish). The long-term monitoring programs in this report (both avian and prey related) are critical to this end,” said Mark Cook of the South Florida Water Management District. “We need to know what’s happening, why it’s happening and what’s working if restoration efforts are to be targeted effectively. These programs have made considerable advancements in our knowledge of wading bird ecology in recent years, although much still remains to be learnt about getting the water right for the birds.”


Fishing Report From The TWRA

Here is the fishing report from the TWRA: Center Hill:   Fishing is fair.  Water temperature is 79 degrees; lake is fairly stable.  Bass:  A few bass are being caught on topwater baits while fish are chasing shad.  Walleye: A few walleye are being caught while trolling above Sligo in 12-to-15 feet of water.  Bluegill: Several bluegill ... (click for more)

TWRA To Stock Several Thousand Florida Largemouth Bass Fingerlings Into Ft. Loudon Lake

TWRA will be stocking several thousand Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into Ft. Loudon Lake on Friday at Ish Creek boat ramp in Louisville.    The stocking is part of a larger effort to expand Florida largemouth bass genetics into more waters across Tennessee.   After the very successful and popular Florida largemouth bass stocking into Chickamauga Reservoir, ... (click for more)

Unexpected Amount East Ridge Owes On Fire Hall Property Rises To $603,000; City To Apply For Reimbursement

The unexpected amount the city of East Ridge will owe the state on the fire hall property in connection with the Bass Pro development has risen to $603,000. Earlier, East Ridge officials said the payment would be $428,000. City Manager Andrew Hyatt said Monday, "The Tennessee Department of Transportation notified the city of East Ridge that an appraisal of the city’s former ... (click for more)

Fire Breaks Out At House Off Highway 58

A fire broke out on Memorial Day afternoon at a house off Highway 58. A 911 call was made at 12:10 p.m. reporting a house fire at 6019 Hillcrest Dr. The Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department responded and found fire showing on an addition to the house. Firefighters worked quickly entering the addition to extinguish the fire from spreading to the main level of the house. ... (click for more)

A Memorial Day Reflection

I wish I could find that combination of words that would capture an inclusive meaning of Memorial Day.  I have attended many Memorial Day programs at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, so many that now they have merged into one memory.  But what stands out is that each year there are more friends and veterans to visit.  Some gave their all many years ago.  And ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Two More Kick Out UAW

Woody Hayes, the great Ohio State football coach, used to teach his players to “paralyze resistance with persistence” but, my word, the likable theory has taken quite a beating in the past two years at the NTN-Bower ball-bearing plant in Hamilton, Ala. The workers there voted to decertify from the United Auto Workers union two years ago but getting the UAW out the door has turned ... (click for more)