Why? It’s unknown at this time. Tens of thousands of nesting birds mysteriously vanish from Seahorse Key in Florida. They were there in May but are no longer there now, all of them leaving at once. Seahorse Key is part of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge and is only accessible by boat. It is off limits to humans from March 1 to June 30th. It is (was) the largest bird colony on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Says Peter Frederick, a University of Florida wildlife biologist: ‘It’s not uncommon for birds to abandon nests…But, in this case, what’s puzzling is that all of the species did it all at once.’
They have ruled out disease. They also don’t think a new predator has arrived or that planes flying overhead have caused the disappearance. A small number of the birds are believed to have moved to a nearby island but this nowhere near accounts for all of the missing birds. Bird colonies on nearby islands have been unaffected. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating the possibility of human disturbance.
The effects of this disappearance could be far reaching. Birds are a food source for other animals like the cottonmouth snake, which feeds on the birds and gets left over fish from the birds. What will happen to the snakes? I know many of you probably won’t lose sleep over snakes but there is a delicate balance here. Populations regulate themselves. Unintended consequences can arise from wildlife populations that are artificially adjusted. Hopefully the birds will return. I’ll keep an eye out on this story and report any significant updates.