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Cedar Key Seabird Rescue lead volunteer Crosby Hunt working with a local tour operator to capture an entangled pelican.

Cedar Key Bird Rescue: 2017 Year in Review

A big year for Cedar Key Bird Rescue

Cedar Key Bird Rescue (CKBR) was founded in August 2016 by the Cedar Keys Audubon with support from several organizations, including the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, Florida Sea Grant, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and Audubon Florida. This group of intrepid volunteers formed CKBR in response to the high number of bird entanglements in Cedar Key, an area identified as a bird entanglement hotspot by FWC and a regional UF survey. While volunteers respond to all kinds of injured birds, the focus of the program is to address seabird entanglement and injury caused by interactions with fishing tackle and fish carcasses.

In 2017, CKBR volunteers fielded 89 phone calls and embarked on rescue missions attempting to save 20 different species of bird. The types of injuries varied, but pelicans tangled in fishing line were the most common (48 of 89 calls in 2017). The high number of entangled pelican rescue calls in 2017 confirms that Cedar Key remains a hotspot for seabird entanglement. In addition, it reinforces the need for the rescue team and highlights the need for additional public education. Thanks to the efforts of CKBR volunteers, the lives of at least 37 birds have been saved. The summary tables below show the outcomes of all of the rescues (109 total) since CKBR’s inception.

A well deserved award

At the 2017 Audubon Assembly, Cedar Keys Audubon won the Chapter of the Year award! The awards committee cited the Cedar Key Bird Rescue program as the primary reason for selecting Cedar Keys Audubon for the award. The award was accompanied by a $50 gift card for the club and the hopes that other Audubon chapters would replicate the highly successful CKBR model.

CKBR increases awareness about seabird entanglement by aiding the injured birds and maintaining a system of signs. Over time, the volunteer effort paired with other educational strategies is expected to lead to a reduction in the number of bird entanglement incidents. Though it is still early in the program (only 14 months since inception), there is some evidence that bird entanglement incidents are declining. In Aug-Dec 2016, there were 21 rescue events and 38% of these calls were for entangled pelicans. Over the same period in 2017, the program also received 21 calls but only 28% of them related to an entangled pelican. While this evidence is preliminary, it is encouraging nonetheless.

Volunteers in Action

Since 2016, volunteers have contributed 334 hours and driven over 5,415 miles all in the name of rescuing local birds. The volunteers are called upon by tourists, pier anglers, residents, and even the City of Cedar Key police department. The Cedar Key Bird Rescue initiative is an important part of sustainable fishing in Cedar Key. Check out the gallery below of our wonderful volunteers in action!

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