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  • Writer's pictureChris A.

Rare Gems on Lido Key

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Like the thrill of finding a rare gem, the three threatened species of birds nesting on North Lido Beach are ours to cherish or ours to lose. I'm guessing that many of you reading this blog are not familiar with a Black Skimmer, Least Tern or a Snowy Plover. As a Florida native, and someone who loves nature and the beach, neither did I until recently. I really never thought about it and assumed that if they were on Lido Key they were on many of the beaches across Florida. Nothing could be further from the truth. The birds have chosen the Lido Key as their habitat and I've learned that we have something very special that we should cherish and protect.

For the past six years the Black Skimmers have chosen to nest on North Lido Beach in the area in front of the Holiday Inn. They show up in mid-April and stick around until September when the last chicks can fly. The area is cordoned off to help protect the colony and Audubon Bird Stewards help educate beach goers. Florida has only about 3000 nesting pairs of Black Skimmers and the Lido colony has upwards of 1000 birds total including chicks right now. This is one of the top colonies in Florida.

Black Skimmers are easy to identify with their large red and black bill. The bottom part of the bill is longer than the top, which is important because they use their bill to gracefully and speedily skim along the surface of the water to catch fish along the shoreline. The first time I saw them on the beach I thought some were dead laying in the sand. Turns out that they like to lay flat and rest in the sand almost like the humans sunbathing nearby.

The Snowy Plover can be seen further north on the beach in the area between the dunes and the water. These guys are small and have natural camouflage. They really blend into the sand where they use indentations and scrapes to help hide. There are only about 100 breeding pairs in Florida and one breeding pair was observed on north Lido this year.

The Least Tern colony is even further up North Lido Beach. It's also cordoned off and marked to help protect the nesting area. Least Terns can be pretty aggressive as I found out the first time I tried to approach the cordoned area. After getting repeatedly dive bombed I retreated to a safe distance. Bring binoculars to see these guys safely from a distance or suffer the consequences! There are about 7,000 nesting pairs in Florida and outside of the panhandle southwest Florida has the most. Lido had about 100 nests this year.

To learn more about these and other birds the FWC publishes the Florida Shorebird Alliance Report that provides good information on birds across Florida.

Kylie Wilson of Audubon is always looking for volunteers to help steward and she can be reached at Many thanks to her and Audubon for providing the photos used in this blog.

There's also Facebook page Sarasota-Manatee Bird Stewards if you want to learn more about stewarding and see some more pictures of the birds.

And if you're on the beach and see the birds being disrupted by dogs, fireworks, drones or kids running through them, nicely remind them what you learned from the blog and help protect our gems. These birds are endangered species and protected by Federal and state laws and potentially large fines and jail time can result. You can also alert the local authorities.

  • FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922

  • Local Sarasota Police Non-emergency: 941-316-1199

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