As we kick off 2022, it seems fitting that our first “Did You Know” email of the new year should coincide with National Bird Day, observed on January 5, 2022. From snail kites and bald eagles to burrowing owls and scrub-jays, birds play an important role in helping us better understand South Florida’s vast and complex environment, as well as the effects of water management decisions. Did you know the South Florida Water Management District consistently monitors and tracks birds to better understand ecosystems in South Florida?
Wading birds, in particular, help us understand the health of the Everglades; we know that if we get the water right for wading birds, we’re getting it right for the ecosystem. Wading birds that we regularly monitor include ibises, wood storks, herons, roseate spoonbills and egrets. These species serve as important ecological indicators, especially during exceptionally wet and dry years. SFWMD ecologists track the timing, location and distribution of wading bird nesting, as well as foraging patterns, in addition many other activities. You can take a deep dive into this data, summarized each year in the Annual Wading Bird Report.
Another priority for the District is ensuring the protection of birds on our project sites, including when these projects are being constructed. The District's wildlife management staff conduct comprehensive trainings for staff and contractors that cover:
- The importance of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
- A walkthrough of state and federally-listed species that they might encounter on a project site.
- What to do if/when you see a protected bird species.
- How to avoid disturbing or otherwise negatively impacting these species and nesting activities.
In addition to trainings, District staff also monitor project sites for birds and other wildlife while instituting safety protections such as reduced speed limits on project sites. You may even notice barriers, instructions and signage to alert site visitors of nearby protected species. And, it's important to note that all studies of birds and all construction activities are completed under appropriate state and federal permits to ensure the protection of our natural resources and wildlife.