Children attempt to bury black skimmer chick

August 6, 2021

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A black skimmer was among the 87 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include an osprey, a fish crow, a barred owl, two marsh rabbits and a striped mud turtle.

A beachgoer rescued the black skimmer chick when she saw two children burying the chick in the sand. The woman removed the chick from the sand and attempted to educate the children so they could understand that what they were doing was hurting the helpless nestling. Unfortunately, the children’s parents intervened and yelled at the woman, saying she couldn’t tell their children what to do.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians, please teach kids to respect wildlife; promote coexisting with wildlife in everything you do.

Joanna Fitzgerald

In an attempt to clear the sand from the skimmer’s mouth, the rescuer offered it water. The black skimmer was gasping for breath when it arrived at the wildlife hospital; sand and water were visible in the skimmer’s mouth. In its debilitated state, the skimmer had aspirated water into its lungs. Humane euthanasia was the only treatment option available in this case.

A second situation of children disrespecting wildlife was reported to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital last week when children were seen preventing a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling from getting across the sand to the water. Staff at Marco Island Water Sports intervened and got the hatchling to safety while contacting sea turtle researchers for assistance.

Parents, grandparents and guardians, please teach kids to respect wildlife; promote coexisting with wildlife in everything you do. Be mindful many wildlife species nesting on our local beaches are protected by state and federal laws. Coastal development has resulted in loss of natural habitat for numerous species of wildlife. Many species, including skimmers, terns and sea turtles are forced to nest on beaches heavily utilized by people. Obey all posted signs meant to make beachgoers aware of the presence of nests and chicks. Avoid all areas where nesting birds are present. Shorebirds are easily disturbed; every time an adult is frightened from its nest, it leaves the eggs and nestlings exposed to the harsh elements and to predators. A family fun day at the beach shouldn’t result in an animal losing its life. Being aware of what your children are up to when you are at the beach will keep them safe and keep wildlife safe as well.  

Recent Releases

A gopher tortoise, a burrowing owl, two brown pelicans, a mourning dove, a black skimmer, six northern mockingbirds, a blue jay, four eastern cottontails, a royal tern, a striped mud turtle and a black-necked stilt were released this past week.

The black-necked stilt release was particularly rewarding. The nestling stilt was admitted two months ago when it was found in a driveway with no parents around. Hospital staff consulted Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, Inc. for his expertise regarding the marsh area in Bonita Bay near where the stilt was originally found. Brian assured us it was an appropriate release site and he has observed black-necked stilts every time he is at that marsh. Brian put us in touch with Dustin Free and Eddy Tetlak at Bonita Bay, both of whom were incredibly helpful. Dustin provided access to Bonita Bay and Eddy Tetlak arranged for our volunteers to use a golf cart then guided them to the release location. Everyone’s help was sincerely appreciated. Visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page to view a video clip of the black-necked stilt release.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing work done by staff and volunteers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital and help us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.