A close bond exists between the different conservation groups and agencies in the Florida Keys. National Audubon coordinates with the FWC, the Everglades National Park, and recently, the Wild Bird Center of Key Largo. As you know, we have been studying the roseate spoonbills as indicators for overall Everglades restoration efforts; thus, every spoonbill counts. So when we got a call from the Wild Bird Center that they had been rehabilitating a juvenile spoonbill, we grew very interested to track its progress.
Vered Nograd, the hospital director with a recuperated spoonbill
The spoonbill arrived at the Wild Bird Center about a month ago weighing 900 grams, totally emaciated and plagued with hookworms. Somehow, the bird had separated from its group and unable to find optimal foraging grounds in the Keys it barely survived. Vered Nograd, the director of the Wild Bird Center hospital, helped nurse the spoonbill back to health, nearly doubling its weight to 1750 grams, and last Wednesday they decided it was ready to be released back into the park.
Takeoff! The rest of the spoonbills are just in the distance.
Pete and I took off from Tavernier across the Bay to meet Vered and her assistant, Suzie Roebling, at a favorable spoonbill foraging site. Within minutes of releasing the bird, it flew off to a stand of mangroves and preened itself twenty yards from the other spoonbills. After a good grooming, it built up the courage and flew over to its new group. Only moments after, we watched it catch its first fish. Success!
"Spooner" as they called him, ready to join his new friends in the shallows
Sure, it’s just one spoonbill and the Wild Bird Center spent lots of money providing the medicine, fish, and time to nurse this one bird back to health. But the gesture alone of caring for, protecting, and ensuring the future of this one bird provides a perfectly tangible example of the level of commitment required to protect such a fragile and important ecosystem.
Vered and Suzie's first spoonbill release! Mission accomplished!