December Wrack Line Newsletter

December 2020 Cover Photo


December 14 - January 5: Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count 

FSA News

Banded American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher Adventures

-Joe Marchionno, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Bird banding is a tool used to supplement monitoring to improve our understanding of shorebird and seabird biology. Monitoring allows us to document productivity and population trends but adding bird banding and re-sighting to a monitoring strategy facilitates gathering information on movement patterns, site fidelity, habitat use, and survival. Monitoring that includes banding and re-sight information can further inform strategies to recover and conserve imperiled shorebird and seabird populations.

In the United States and abroad there are many groups of researchers that band and track birds. One such group - The American Oystercatcher Working Group – maintains resources for researchers working in the United States and internationally to efficiently share records of banded and re-sighted American oystercatchers. Florida Shorebird Alliance partners have been contributing monitoring data to the working group since 2008 with the goal of facilitating science-based conservation strategies to recover the population of oystercatchers.

Since the beginning of oystercatcher banding and monitoring programs, we have learned that breeding oystercatchers in Florida generally do not make large-scale migrations, but rather vacate their breeding territories to join larger nearby wintering flocks. However, several oystercatchers banded in Northeast Florida in recent years have been notable exceptions to this trend.

oystercatcher movement

Banded as adults in 2015, Red (47), Red (48), and Red (91) have been reported wintering in Honduras and Nicaragua in the Golfo De Fonseca each year since 2016. These banded American oystercatchers were documented  by international partners who contributed photographs and re-sight data to the working group and database. There is little known about the international migration trends of Florida breeding adults or the dispersal of hatch-year oystercatchers. These critical data points just begin to scratch the surface of our knowledge of this group of long-distance migrants.

In 2020, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission researchers banded 87 oystercatchers statewide, including 23 adults and 64 chicks. Out of the 64 chicks banded, Red (W51) was banded on 6/27/2020 at Tyndall Air Force Base and Red (W40) on 6/15/2020 at Anastasia State Park. Roughly 4 months after banding, W51 was reported in Barra de Santiago, El Salvador and W40 was reported in Bahía Junquillal, Costa Rica.

While the exact migration paths are unknown, it is nonetheless impressive that 2 oystercatchers migrated over 1000 miles during the peak of a very active gulf hurricane season only 4 months after hatching. It is also noteworthy that these two Pacific Central American sites where the birds were observed are completely new re-sighting locations to the American Oystercatcher Working Group. International reports like these are proof that birds not only have a complex life history, but they also connect the world. American oystercatcher biologists not only received new bird movement information, but also made new connections in the shorebird conservation community.

The biologist who re-sighted the birds wrote a detailed account for the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative. Read the story in English and Spanish.

(migration photo: The dashed line illustrates the linear distance between annual breeding and wintering locations of Red 47, 48, and 91. The solid lines illustrate the distance between natal and wintering locations of newly banded Red W40 and W51. It should be noted that the actual migration path of each bird is quite different than what is depicted in this illustration.)

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FSD Updates

FSA Monitoring Resources

Did you know?

The FSA has many resources to guide monitoring during the breeding and non-breeding season in Florida. From aging guides to annual fact sheets, these tools are designed for experienced surveyors and new shorebird enthusiasts alike! Check them out at the links below, or on the FSA website.

Species Lists:

Identifying & Aging Guides

Priority Species Fact Sheets

Ebb Tidings

Happy Holidays from the FSA!