What is it?
The objective of the LAKEWATCH Aquatic Bird Survey is to establish and maintain a statewide monitoring system to examine seasonal and yearly trends in Florida's aquatic birds.
Many bird species are known to associate with Florida's lakes, but few studies have directly quantified their numbers or examined long-term trends in diversity and abundance. As Florida's wetlands continue to be altered or destroyed, the need to understand better the value of these take systems to aquatic bird communities is of increasing importance.
Early studies by Mark Hoyer and Dr. Dan Canfield, of the University of Florida's Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, revealed that aquatic bird abundance is strongly correlated with lake trophic status, and that species richness is strongly correlated with lake surface area (See links below). The LAKEWATCH Aquatic Bird Survey will expand upon these findings and answer further questions about the effects of shoreline habitat, water chemistry, and broad-scale climatic factors on foraging, nesting, and roosting aquatic birds. Ultimately, such findings will allow Florida to develop better management strategies for its lake environments
How does the Aquatic Bird Survey work?
The Aquatic Bird Survey is meant to be an easy addition to the water chemistry sampling, and can be conducted on the same day that you collect your water samples.
Two survey protocols have been developed for the Aquatic Bird Survey: a standard bird survey where the number and species of each aquatic bird observed on a lake is recorded, and an advanced survey that involves recording both the birds and their surrounding habitat. Volunteers who wish to participate in either survey should have their own binoculars and bird identification guide, as well as a keen interest in the local aquatic bird community. LAKEWATCH will provide volunteers with a training packet and survey sheets. Volunteers conducting the advanced survey will also receive an aerial photo of their lake with descriptions of the surrounding habitats. If, upon reading the training packet, volunteers would like further information, training sessions can be arranged. Training sessions typically last no more than an hour and involve field identification of local birds and, for the advanced survey, further description of the aquatic and shoreline habitats.
Survey sheets can be turned in at the nearest water collection center, either with or without your water samples.
Survey information will be compiled in a long-term database here in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida. Volunteers will receive periodic reports on the their lakes and yearly updates on seasonal trends and other significant findings within their region.
Want to read more about the importance of aquatic birds to lakes?
A very enjoyable recent article by Mark Hoyer in a publication of the North American Lake Management Society called "Lakeline" is a nice overview of the groups and characteristics of aquatic birds, and discusses ways in which they are important both ecologically and to lake management.
Hoyer, M.V. 2013. Lake management and aquatic birds. Lakeline 32 (1):15-18 Download PDF, (with permission from Editor, Lakeline, North American Lake Management Society)
Previous Aquatic Bird Studies on Florida Lakes
The following three articles describe some of the previous research that has been conducted on aquatic birds found on Florida lakes.
Hoyer, M.V. and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 1990. Limnological factors influencing bird abundance and species richness on Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management 6(2): 133-141. Download PDF
Hoyer, M.V. and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 1994. Bird abundance and species richness on Florida lakes: influence of trophic status lake morphology, and aquatic macrophytes. Hydrobiologia 297/280: 107-119. Download PDF
Hoyer, M.V., J. Winn, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2001. Citizen monitoring of aquatic bird populations using a Florida lake. Lake and Reservoir Management 17(2): 82-89. Download PDF
Hoyer, Mark V., Sky K. Notestein, Thomas K. Frazer and Daniel E. Canfield Jr. 2006. A comparison between aquatic birds of lakes and coastal rivers in Florida. Hydrobiologia 567:5-18. Download PDF
Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities
- Audubon of Florida: lists several great bird-monitoring programs around the state.
- National Wildlife Federation: A good site to learn how to make your own backyard wildlife friendly and learn how to inform others as well
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: An extensive list of national citizen science bird monitoring projects