December 2, 2014
~Birdhouses hung in the trees of the St. Johns River become hazards to wildlife and boaters~
Birdhouses decompose quickly in Florida’s riverine environment. (Photo by Barbara Howell)
Florida’s aquatic preserves are special places that provide scenic beauty and respite from the clutter of modern life. In order to keep the Wekiva-Middle St. Johns River Aquatic Preserve waters free of debris and safe for wildlife and boaters, staff recently removed more than 40 birdhouses from a canal on the St. Johns River. Signs were also posted stating the reasons why birdhouses do not belong on the river, that the activity is harmful to wildlife and boaters, and is illegal.
“When people realize how harmful the birdhouses can be in a riverine environment, hopefully they will stop putting them up,” said Wekiva-Middle St. Johns River Aquatic Preserve Manager Deborah Shelley. “We understand that people want to commemorate special occasions, but it is more appropriate to do so in their backyards where it can be better enjoyed.”
Rather than provide a home, the birdhouses pose a danger to birds, manatees and motorboats. Wood, plastic, paint, nails, styrofoam, various ropes and lines (monofilament, nylon ropes, chains), and other materials used to build the birdhouses all decompose and become litter that ends up in the river.
The materials that are used to hang these birdhouses are also harmful to the area. Ropes, string or monofilament line can get tangled around wildlife and boat propellers. The ropes that do stay in place constrict tree growth. Structures secured by screws and nails that are driven into the trees can also provide a route for invasion by pests and disease. Dislodged styrofoam and small decorations can also be perceived as food and are a choking hazard to wildlife. Most birdhouses are quickly inhabited by ants, wasps and mud daubers.
It is illegal to place anything in these public waterways. All birdhouses have been removed according to Florida Statute 403 (activity that can cause pollution and possibly harm or injure human health or welfare, animal, plant or aquatic life or property). For more information, please call the Wekiva-Middle St. Johns River Aquatic Preserve at 407-330-6727.