As the nesting season draws down, you may notice that there seems to be fewer adults and fledglings to be seen on Sand Dollar. At first the reason for this is that once they have finished nesting for the season, adults and fledglings may leave the colony and disperse around the county to other feeding and roosting sites. They will then spend the next several weeks fattening up and improving their body condition–raising a brood of chicks is very demanding work–and the year’s young need to learn to become proficient hunters so they can feed themselves. After they have fueled up, our nesting shorebirds will depart the area and head to their wintering grounds. Where do they go?
Least Terns winter in Mexico, the Caribbeean, Central America, and northern South America. Individuals that breed in New England have quite a long flight before them! No one knows for sure exactly where our southwest Florida population of terns winters.
Black Skimmers from northern states like New York may migrate only as far south as Florida, while more southern populations depart for the Caribbean or Central America or choose to stay put on or near their breeding grounds.
Wilson’s Plovers follow a similar pattern, often wintering in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, although unlike the Black Skimmer and the Least Tern, they do not breed as far north.