Injured birds around the fishing pier – Skywatch Friday


Hubby and I stopped by the Sunshine Skyway fishing pier to look for the rare kittiwake that had been sighted there earlier that week. We looked, along with several other birders, for over an hour with no luck. I did get a lot of “birds in flight” practice that morning.


I realized after I cropped this up that the royal tern had a hook in his beak. This was a common sight around the pier.


I saw another royal tern on the other side of the pier with a hook pulling on his skin. He was trying to swallow a big fish. He got the fish down but not without doing more damage to the beak area. I’m not sure how someone would be able to catch this one. He was flying pretty good and stayed on the other side of the pier that you can’t get to.


Another royal tern with a fish.


He flew right over my head. No hooks here.


This common loon has a hook in it’s beak.


This loon was showing off. This has been a banner winter for loons in the Tampa bay area. We only get them in the winter here around Tampa and last winter I only saw 2.


Back down for another fish.


Ruddy turnstone posing on an oyster bed.


A view of the Sunshine Skyway bridge from the rest stop. The bridge takes  you from St. Petersburg over the bay to Sarasota and south Florida. This new bridge opened in 1985 after a freighter crashed into the old one doing enough damage to close it down back in 1980. Part of the old bridge is still used as a fishing pier.

The couple of times that I’ve been out on the fishing pier, it has been packed with people fishing. The birds, including gulls, terns and pelicans, hang out here to fish as well. They also like to steal the bait fish from the fisherman. The biggest problem is that the birds will go after a fish that is already on a hook and the birds get hooked too. There are educational boards all over the fishing pier with instructions on how to reel in a hooked bird and take the hook out. It is clear to never cut the line. The bird will die with a hook and fishing line trailing behind it. After spending time on the pier, you will get the impression that most people don’t care and will just cut the line. I say most because there are a few people out there with a soul and will help release the bird the right way. With the amount of birds flying around with hooks, most just cut the line. The local bird rescue and rehab company has been having financial problems and has stopped taking in injured birds. A new group of volunteers are working on starting up a new rescue group. With all of the birders out on this pier recently looking for the kittiwake, there’s been a growing concern on how to help out at the pier.

There’s so much more to this story. I’ll save that for a later date. I still stand behind my thought “No fishing should be allowed on fishing piers.” Like that would ever happen in Florida.

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18 thoughts on “Injured birds around the fishing pier – Skywatch Friday

  1. Nice job photographing the birds with a fish in their mouth! You had to be pretty patient. Nice photo of the bridge. I remember going under it when I took a cruise. Lovely day in FL.

  2. Tremendous flight shots!
    Oh how I hate seeing birds with hooks stuck in them! 🙁 I got a pic of a DC cormorant in flight last week that when I looked at later had a hook and some line stuck in it’s back area.
    Pelicans get caught all the time too. 🙁

  3. OH gosh the poor birds. I’m interested in reading what else you’ll have to tell us on the rehab people and what happens.

    I hope you find the kittiwakes! But the pictures you did get are good (if sad with the hooked ones)…I don’t think you need any more practice on flight shots — these ones are perfect!

  4. Terrific series of photos, Dina. I especially like the tern flying with the fish — awesome. Are you using a new camera? It’s so sad to see the birds with hooks. I wish more fisherman would be responsible and properly unhook the birds.

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