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South Florida Wading Bird Study

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To determine the number of Wading Bird nesting pairs in all three Water Conservation Areas, we conduct systematic monthly aerial surveys over the entire study area from mid-February through mid-June. These are done at an altitude of 800' from a Cessna 172 contracted through Speed Aviation in Homestead Florida. Front- and rear-seat observers search for nest colonies and, when one is located, make visual count estimates of all light-plumaged species. Colony locations are determined using hand-held GPS receivers. Digital photographs are also taken for later analysis. Each survey usually takes three to four morning flights to complete.

At the height of the nesting season we spend a week doing systematic ground surveys in WCA 3a (using airboats). These provide a much better estimate of dark-plumaged and non-colonial nesters than can be obtained from the air.

Throughout the nesting period we regularly access 3-5 larger colonies to gather nest stage and nest success data. We mark the nests of a variety of species and then recheck their status weekly using mirror poles. Many other smaller colonies are also visited by airboat to provide supplemental visual counts.

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