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Audubon: Florida Development Puts Everglade Birds at Risk

PHOTO: An Audubon Florida report finds that wading birds, such as roseate spoonbills, are nesting less often in the Everglades. Courtesy: Charles Lee, Audubon Florida
PHOTO: An Audubon Florida report finds that wading birds, such as roseate spoonbills, are nesting less often in the Everglades. Courtesy: Charles Lee, Audubon Florida
January 25, 2013

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Development and human influence in areas around Florida's Everglades continue to put certain bird and fish populations at risk, according to a report from Audubon Florida.

The study shows that changes to water flow – connected to development – are having a large influence on wading birds, such as roseate spoonbills and wood storks. Because they find fewer fish to feed on, they're less inclined to nest. Nesting is down by 17 percent in the Kissimmee chain of lakes, compared to last year.

Megan Tinsley, Everglades policy associate with the organization, says changes in water flow mean big changes in habitat.

"What we're left with is these fragment habitats of the Everglades that are difficult to control water,” she says. “And certainly the water that flows in and out of those areas isn't done as naturally."

Tinsley says it's not too late to protect the wading birds of the Everglades. The Audubon Society recommends the continuation of restoration efforts that would allow for more efficient and natural freshwater flow through the Everglades.

The Audubon study also points out there has been "unprecedented progress toward Everglades restoration," in recent years.

Tinsley explains that the health of the bird population is an indicator of issues in the larger ecosystem of the Everglades. She says there are connections between the environment and Florida's economy.

"So not only do you not see wading birds utilizing those areas,” she says, “but you see a reduction in the game fish that people come to south Florida to fish for."

The Audubon Society says this marks the third year in a row that nesting is down in the Florida Everglades.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL