Well known for its significant contributions to the region’s people and economy, Port Manatee also is providing a flourishing nesting and feeding habitat for terns and other aviary species, developed and maintained through a landmark partnership with industry and not-for-profit Audubon Florida.
Each year at this time, Port Manatee engages in removal of non-native vegetation and soil preparation at the thriving bird sanctuary on Manbirtee Key, readying the 60-acre man-made island in Tampa Bay for ground-nesting shorebirds and other winged species that every spring find safe haven for bringing their next generation into the world.
Just offshore from the port, Manbirtee Key was created nearly half a century ago in conjunction with the construction of the Port Manatee entrance channel. Since then, it has undergone regular restorative efforts, making it a favorite nesting spot for coastal shorebirds that have been driven from Florida Gulf Coast beaches due to ever-increasing encroachment of commercial and residential development.
Port Manatee proudly partners with Gulfstream Natural Gas System LLC and Audubon Florida in the Manbirtee Key endeavors, from control of fire ants to mangrove restoration to removal of tall invasive vegetation that could provide perches for predator birds.
Not only does Manbirtee Key furnish habitats for least terns, plovers, willets, killdeer and other ground-nesting shorebirds, such as the rarest of all North American herons, the reddish egret, it also offers a home for various migrating species of songbirds, including gray kingbirds and warblers.
Sure, Port Manatee supports more than 24,000 jobs in the area while generating economic impacts of $2.3 billion a year. But we also see our socioeconomic responsibilities extending to include the birds of Manbirtee Key.
We have been blessed to have the opportunity to team with Gulfstream and Audubon Florida in fulfilling our steadfast commitment to our natural surroundings, including Gulf Coast birds.
While we certainly haven’t maintained our dedication to Manbirtee Key and other sustainability initiatives for the purposes of receiving awards, it was gratifying to have been honored for our collaborative efforts with a number of recognitions, including a first-place Future of the Region Award from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
At Port Manatee, we aren’t just moving commerce that supports the people of our region; we also are continuing to forge ahead with industry and conservation partners to benefit our fine feathered friends.
Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.