Biologists Say Storm Surges Wiped Out Struggling Birds' Nests

State wildlife officials say storm surges from Hurricane Dennis flooded or washed away most of the nesting sites of a struggling bird species on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Ricardo Zambrano says black skimmers don't typically leave their beach colonies so early in the hurricane season.

The black skimmer is a species of special concern in Florida, where the black and white bird has lost most of its beach habitat to development.

Wildlife officials say most of the nests from Marco Island, 15 miles southeast of Naples, to the Panhandle were lost. The largest colony had been at Marco Island, with about 500 pairs of the birds nesting on a narrow strip of sand. Officials say about three-quarters of the nests there were lost and only 48 chicks survived.

On Sand Key, off Clearwater Beach, 72 young skimmers climbed to safety on dunes behind high-rise condominiums.