Florida is home to more than 500 bird species, from the giant Wood Stork to the diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
But what will happen to these species in the 21st century if climate change is not effectively addressed?
Good question. They will:
Click on the above species to learn more, or scroll below to see them all.
What is Audubon doing for the spoonbill?
Audubon Florida continues to band Roseate Spoonbill chicks to monitor their changing ranges and protect areas they use as breeding and feeding grounds.
Additionally, we work with Everglades stakeholders, including citizen groups, government agencies, and elected officials, to improve water flow through the River of Grass and increase conditions the spoonbills need to thrive.
Photo: Matthew Hansen/Audubon Photography Awards.
The 2019, Florida Legislature appropriated landmark funding to water quality and wetlands restoration projects, including more than $360 million for Everglades restoration. The continued funding will support the revitalization of the habitat Roseate Spoonbills sorely need.
What can I do?
Stay up to date with the 2020 Legislative Session and call your elected officials to support continued Everglades restoration initiatives. Sign up for our Audubon Advocate to receive updates right in your inbox.
When you see a banded spoonbill, record as much information as possible and submit your observations here.
Photo: John Fox/Audubon Photography Awards.
What is Audubon doing for the skimmer?
Audubon partners with agencies, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers across the state to monitor and patrol the most vulnerable beach-nesting colonies. Beach stewards rope off nesting sites, educate visitors on the importance and wonder of the nesting season, and alert wildlife officers to nest disturbances.
In Pinellas and Collier Counties, Audubon Florida has embarked on an ambitious banding program to better understand population dynamics, habitat use during different parts of the year, and cross-state/cross-Gulf movements. By promoting the re-sighting of banded birds, we learn more about skimmers across the country and across the world.
Photo: Peter Cavanagh/Audubon Photography Awards.
The sand-strewn beach along Little Talbot Island is one of the few places remaining on Florida’s Atlantic coast with no buildings and few roads in sight. Located just south of Amelia Island where Nassau County and Duval County meet, the emergent sands within Nassau Sound have long provided the perfect topography for beach-nesting birds, with direct access to fish and no trees to harbor predators. This summer, “Big Bird Island” (now connected to Little Talbot) provided one of the most successful nesting seasons in recent memory.
Unfortunately, nesting success here has been stymied in recent years because the same beaches that attract the birds also attract people. Despite its remoteness and previous attempts to provide a buffer, the northern end of the Little Talbot Island has been a favorite recreational spot for thousands of beachgoers and boaters each year, especially when waters are warm and beach-nesting birds are trying to raise their young.
New Critical Wildlife Area signage erected on Big Bird Island clearly conveys the message of "No Landing" to boaters and kayakers approaching from waterside. Thanks to the dedication of the Timucuan Shorebird Partnership, which includes staff and volunteers from Audubon Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Park Service, and the City of Jacksonville, beach-bird nesting failure at Little Talbot Island may be a thing of the past.
“The nesting success on Little Talbot Island this year was the result of many years of effort,” explains Chris Farrell, Audubon’s Northeast Florida Policy Associate. Five species of beach-nesting birds successfully raised chicks on Little Talbot Island: American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and Black Skimmers.
Decades ago, thousands of birds used the emergent islands in Nassau Sound, but shifting sands relocated and reduced their nesting habitat. With fewer areas capable of supporting imperiled beach-nesting birds, protection of the remaining nest sites became paramount. Recognizing the need for additional management tools, Audubon collaborated with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to both renew and enlarge the Critical Wildlife Area designation for beach-nesting bird habitat in Nassau Sound.
The FWC's Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) program is one way the state provides extra protection for concentrations of wildlife where there is the greatest exposure to human activity. CWAs are discrete sites, such as mangrove islands or sandbars, where species gather daily or seasonally for essential activities, such as breeding, feeding, or resting.
In 2015, Audubon started to work closely with FWC and other stakeholders to reestablish this protection for Little Talbot Island. Audubon’s Chris Farrell, FWC staff, and long-time advocate Pat Leary presented information on the importance of the sound for nesting birds during FWC's local stakeholder meetings.
On November 16, 2016, they got good news: the old "Bird Islands" CWA was redesignated as the "Nassau Sound Islands" CWA in the vote that created 13 new CWAs in the state and improved five existing ones. The most critical aspect of the redesignation was the inclusion of the northern tip of Little Talbot Island – a spit of sand once known as "Big Bird Island" but had since shifted and attached to the end of Little Talbot Island.
The "Big Bird" area at the northern end of Little Talbot is ideal habitat for beach-nesting birds and has been the site of nesting attempts by Least Terns and American Oystercatchers. Unfortunately, these attempts yielded few fledged chicks, if any. Park staff marked off the nesting habitat each year, but they could never post an area large enough to prevent disturbance to the birds for fear of losing signs to the dynamic tides of the region.
Fortunately, the new CWA designation brought additional resources and focus to this nesting site. The most significant improvement was the addition of seven large "No Landing" signs, installed around the breeding area to let boaters know they could not land and disembark near the nesting birds.
Additionally, Audubon Florida and FWC have hired seasonal staff to steward this remote nesting site, where it can be difficult to recruit help from volunteers. FWC also produced informational postcards explaining the closure of the nesting area with details on its location and a map. Park rangers hand out cards at the station, as do stewards when speaking with visitors on-site.
Continued efforts, including meeting with local outfitters, installing signs at boat ramps, and outreach programs are helping to improve compliance with the CWA closure. Stewards like Lindsay Partymiller have been critical in this regard, intercepting more than 150 boat landings and speaking with over 500 people at the nesting site this year alone.
The cumulative result of these partnership efforts has been a significant increase in nesting success by several species. Least Terns, which managed to raise a few chicks to fledgling age at the site last year, built more than 100 nests in 2019 with dozens of fledgling chicks. 2019’s big surprise? The return of sizable numbers of nesting Black Skimmers and Gull-billed Terns. Skimmers built a whopping thirty nests, and at least 25 chicks survived. Gull-billed Terns had more than twenty nests and many successful offspring. Four pairs of American Oystercatchers also produced young, with Wilson’s Plovers rounding out the list of successful nesters at this site, bringing the total number of species to five. Final estimates of fledgling success will be tallied after a thorough review of all survey data.
Farrell notes, “The positive response from multiple species is a testament to how improved management can benefit our beach-nesting birds. Hard work from our partners at Little Talbot Island State Park, FWC, and Audubon's bird stewards resulted in a successful nesting season at the Nassau Sound Islands CWA and should inspire others to replicate their success.”
For more than a century Audubon has encouraged people to take care of the places that make Florida special. Using science to guide our priorities and birdlife to measure ecosystem health, Audubon promotes stewardship and appreciation of public land and water so people experience and cherish Florida’s natural beauty and wildlife.
Photo: Jean Hall.
What can I do?
You can help beach-nesting birds raise their next generation of chicks to adulthood by following some simple guidelines when you visit the beach:
Respect posted areas, even if you don’t see any birds inside; if birds dive-bomb you, carefully move away as there may be a nest nearby; ensure no trash or food remnants are left behind; and always keep dogs on a leash, on board your boat, or at home.
Utilize natural solutions to shoreline erosion, including living shorelines and oyster reefs. Conservation of wetlands and marshy areas is critical not only to Black Skimmers, but for coastal resilience as well.
Become a beach steward and protect vulnerable nesting colonies from disturbance each summer.
When you see Black Skimmers with leg bands, please report them to the Florida Banded Birds Resightings website. Each re-sighted band provides critical information on how we can better conserve and protect Black Skimmers in the face of ongoing climate change.
Photo: Anuradha Shankar, Audubon Photography Awards.
What is Audubon doing for the redstart?
Plants for Birds Program
Enthusiasm for using native plants in Florida landscapes is spreading among Audubon’s 45 local chapters in Florida! Twenty of Florida’s Audubon chapters serve as local native plant resources and are encouraging their communities and neighbors to use native landscaping. Native plants are better for birds and people, save water, control flooding, use fewer chemicals, reduce yard maintenance, and create native Florida beauty in landscapes. Check out these examples of just a few chapters working to expand bird-friendly native landscapes in their communities:
Pelican Island Audubon is advocating for native plants to help save the Indian River Lagoon. More than 400 attendees participated in a recent two-day native landscaping conference, and local officials have asked for their help in developing a local native plant program. Native plants require less water and fertilizer, making them friendlier to nearby rivers, lakes, and the Indian River Lagoon.
South Florida Audubon is restoring three existing bird sanctuary butterfly gardens with more bird-friendly plants after many were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Audubon’s interactive database at Audubon.org/PlantsForBirds is serving as a guide to select native plants for these gardens. The Garden Club of the Quail Ridge Country Club, local Florida Master Gardeners, and the National Wildlife Habitat Steward volunteers are partnering with South Florida Audubon on this project, which includes installing new plants and providing community education.
Drumming up incredible local interest in native plants, Four Rivers Audubon in North Central Florida featured a native plant giveaway as part of their 9th Annual Alligator Lake Spring Festival in April. Hundreds gather each year for this community event celebrating the area’s springs and nature. More than 200 carefully selected native plants were given away to attendees with installation, care, and benefit details.
Bay County Audubon hosted "Birds, Bugs and Berries," a well-attended symposium on native plants. Expert birders, native plant enthusiasts, and gardening specialists highlighted the importance of native plants for both birds and the bugs they need. Insects provide an important source of protein for birds, especially young song birds. Bird populations have dramatically declined due to habitat loss and climate change, and native landscapes empower homeowners and business to help both the environment and the birds.
American Redstarts can use these native plant gardens for foraging opportunities as they migrate through the Sunshine State. As more redstarts begin to remain in Florida year-round, they can also use native plant gardens as critical overwintering habitat.
Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.
What can I do?
Plant native plants across your landscape, and ask your neighbors and community to do the same. Once established, native plants do not need watering, pesticides, or fertilizers, making them better for water quality, and your wallet.
Participate in community science projects that collect critical information on the movements and populations of American Redstarts. In addition to the Christmas Bird Count, be sure to log in to eBird.org to record sightings all year round.
Photo: Eric Nie/Audubon Photography Awards.
What is Audubon doing for the Wood Thrush?
Wood Thrushes need wet, hardwood forests to survive, and are known for living near unique, sandbottom streams in North Florida.
Sensitive to disturbance, Wood Thrushes rely on intact stretches of forest, far from the edges that connect the trees with pastureland, row crops, and developed property.
Audubon Florida continues to fight for Florida Forever funding that can be leveraged to purchase and protect large tracts of forest habitat, like the Apalachicola River corridor, stretching from Florida's state line to the Gulf of Mexico. We intervened in the legal fight with neighboring Georgia over public and agricultural water withdrawals, working towards keeping the Apalachicola River's water flowing into its vast floodplains while conserving habitat for Wood Thrushes and other bird species that depend on broad landscapes of intact forests.
Audubon staff worked closely with Apalachee Audubon Chapter to research tracts along the Apalachicola River that could be purchased together into one globally Important Bird Area through the Florida Forever Program.
Photo: Kathy Johnston/Audubon Photography Awards.
Lake Talquin State Forest and Apalachicola National Forest protect many of the remaining sandbottom streams in large, unbroken tracts of forest.
In North Florida, Audubon has partnered with others to advocate for restoring the Ocklawaha River and protecting springs from pollution and overuse of groundwater. More recently, we were the lead on a friend of the court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Georgia’s over consumption of water to protect the Apalachicola River ecosystem.
Photo: Megumi Aita/Audubon Photography Awards.
What can I do?
Conserving large swaths of forest in Florida will ensure that the Wood Thrush's flute-like melodies will continue to be heard in North Florida's forested landscapes long into the future. Floridians should encourage Florida Forever purchases that create wildlife corridors so these birds do not have to fly over hostile habitat like parking lots and highways.
Advocate for the Florida Forever acquisitions along the Apalachicola River by contacting your local elected official. Follow Audubon Florida's policy work to stay up to date on opportunities to support Florida Forever.
What is Audubon doing for the pelican?
Audubon staff and chapters are training volunteers to work on piers to rescue pelicans that have been tangled with fishing line or swallowed bones. Audubon has also partnered in the production of an informational brochure called What to Do if You Hook a Pelican. Additionally, we have installed fishing line recycling tubes on fishing piers and in harbors to encourage proper disposal and reduce the amount of line that ends up in our waterways.
Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries staff patrol 75 colony islands along the Southwest Florida coastline to remove entangled birds as well as fishing tackle. Each fall, staff organize coastal cleanups to educate citizens on how much fishing line enters our waterways as well as encouraging methods of safely and effectively removing it.
Critically, Audubon is pioneering new living shoreline initiatives to reduce erosion and increase resiliency in areas the pelicans need to both feed and nest. Expanded projects in the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary and four other regionally important rookery islands both add to these efforts and inspire other landowners to undertake similar efforts.
Photo: Lorraine Minns/Audubon Photography Awards.
The Alafia Bank hosts the largest Brown Pelican colony in the Tampa Bay region and is an important multi-species bird nesting island for the entire Gulf region. Storms and boat wakes have eroded the shorelines of islands used as nesting habitat by not only Brown Pelicans, but also terns, shorebirds, and wading birds.
In an effort to stabilize the islands without losing natural shoreline, Audubon has teamed up with The Mosaic Company, Port Tampa Bay, Living Shorelines Solutions, and Reef Innovations to install additional reef breakwaters to reduce onshore wave energy, trap sediment, and gain shoreline width. In addition to reducing erosion, breakwaters produce calm water between the shore and the island, creating fertile ground for seagrass, which acts as an underwater nursery for crustaceans, fish, and other organisms.
Once complete, the new living shoreline will provide shelter for Brown Pelicans into the future, providing additional nesting habitat not only for the birds born here, but also for those relocated after the Deepwater Horizon Spill.
Photo: Linda Conroy/Audubon Photography Awards.
What can I do?
Join a coastal cleanup, and tell your friends and family about the strange items that end up in our natural ecosystems each year. To reduce plastic consumption, avoid single-use items all together, re-use what you can, and recycle whenever possible.
Volunteer to help remove fishing line or start your own program to work at local piers and harbors.
Photo: Dennis Werntz/Audubon Photography Awards.