Nature Coast Partnership
Initiated in 2009, the goal of the Nature Coast Shorebird Partnership is to conserve shorebird and seabird populations in Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, and Hernando counties through collaborative efforts between government agencies, non-government organizations, and individuals.
From a landscape perspective, the Nature Coast is unique in many ways. Calm seas have permitted saltmarsh to dominate this stretch of coastline and conversely, prevented the formation of barrier islands and sandy beaches. As the name suggests, this region of Florida is comparatively undeveloped with large areas protected in public ownership.
The Nature Coast supports a wide diversity of shorebirds and seabirds, particularly migratory and wintering species which congregate on the vast network of tidal mudflats in impressive numbers. Furthermore, recent studies indicate this region is globally significant for certain species, such as American Oystercatchers- roughly ten percent of the population from eastern North America winters along the Nature Coast. However, much remains to be learned about the birds of the Nature Coast and the issues affecting them.
Members of the partnership coordinate activities via email and at seasonally scheduled meetings. Partners meet in the early spring and fall in Cedar Key or Yankeetown. Partnership activities include:
- Conducting and supporting shorebird and seabird research in the region
- Monitoring and managing priority sites within the region,
- Conservation planning (i.e. identifying needs and developing strategies), and
- Community outreach
Our needs are seasonal based but the peak of activity occurs during the breeding season. Here are a few ways to get involved:
- Attend partnership meetings in the spring and fall (contact below)
- Join Cedar Keys Audubon
- Be a bird-friendly boater! Whether in a kayak or motorboat, enjoy the birds from at least 300 feet away and keep your dogs leashed and away from birds.
- If you hook a bird, don’t cut the line! Reel. Remove. Release.
- Read more in the Nature Coast Water Birds brochure
- Report any wildlife violations to the FWC Wildlife Alert or call the Hotline 888-404-FWCC (3922)
|Common Name||Scientific Name|
|American Oystercatcher||Haematopus palliatus|
|Black Skimmer||Rynchops niger|
|Brown Pelican||Pelecanus occidentalis|
|Least Tern||Sternula antillarum|
|Wilson's Plover||Charadrius wilsonia|
6 Fun Facts About the Nature Coast
- The first least tern colony documented in the Cedar Key area was in 2012. Fledglings were first documented this year.
- Wilson’s plover and willets are found nesting a mile inland just south of Steinhatchee in patches of marsh mixed with limestone outcroppings. The plovers seem to nest successfully in this habitat where their fiddler crab prey is abundant.
- Limestone is the primary substrate that shorebirds and seabirds use for nesting on the Cross Florida Barge Canal Spoil Islands. They share these islands with a nesting colony of Black-Crowned Night Herons.
- The Nature Coast is one of the most logistically challenging areas of Florida to survey because many of the routes are accessible only by boat.
- In 2016, an artificial nesting platform was built on the old dock at Atsena Otie Key by the USFWS Cedar Keys and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge staff to provide more nesting habitat for least terns. The platform is maintained by FWS and FWC staff and seasonally equipped with a call broadcast system to encourage least terns to nest.
- Snake Key in Cedar Key is a regionally important nesting site for brown pelicans and other colonial nesting water birds, including cormorants, ibises, roseate spoonbills, tricolored herons and other wading bird species. Snake Key is closed when nesting birds are present.
Photo Credit: Britt Brown