Effects of Fires on Foraging and Breeding Wading Birds in the Everglades

Peter N. Epanchin, University of Florida
Julie A. Heath, Boise State University
Peter C. Frederick, University of Florida


Nests, eggs, and chicks of nesting wading birds were unharmed by two fires in the Everglades. However, at least 50 adult White Ibises (Eudocimus albus) foraging away from the breeding colonies were killed during one fire. These results are counter-intuitive given that well-flighted adult birds seem more capable of escaping a fire than immobile nests or eggs. Nests probably were unharmed because of their location in wet willow (Salix carolina) and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) islands. The adult birds foraging in a small cattail (Typha angustifolia) stand may have been trapped by flames in surrounding tall sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) or debilitated by smoke inhalation. These observations provide insight into the direct effects of fire on wading bird breeding colonies and individual survival.