The coastal wetlands of northeastern Florida Bay are seasonally-inundated dwarf mangrove habitat and serve as a primary foraging ground for wading birds nesting in Florida Bay. A common paradigm in pulse-inundated wetlands is that prey base fishes increase in abundance while the wetland is flooded and then become highly concentrated in deeper water refuges as water levels recede, becoming highly available to wading birds whose nesting success depends on these concentrations. Although widely accepted, the relationship between water levels, prey availability and nesting success has rarely been quantified. I examine this paradigm using Roseate Spoonbills that nest on the islands in northeastern Florida Bay and forage on the mainland. Spoonbill nesting success and water levels on their foraging grounds have been monitored since 1987 and prey base fishes have been systematically sampled at as many as 10 known spoonbill foraging sites since 1990. Results demonstrated that the relationship between water level and prey abundance was not linear but rather there is likely a threshold, or series of thresholds, in water level that result in concentrated prey. Furthermore, the study indicates that spoonbills require water level-induced prey concentrations in order to have enough food available to successfully raise young.
Lorenz, J.J.. 2013. The Relationship Between Water Level, Prey Availability and Reproductive Success in Roseate Spoonbills Foraging in a Seasonally-Flooded Wetland While Nesting in Florida Bay. Wetlands DOI: 10.1007/s13157-012-0364-y