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article imageSwamphens Being Eradicated By Conservation Officers

By Debra Myers     Sep 9, 2007 in Environment
In the past 18 months, more than 800 swamphens have been killed in an effort to control their numbers in the Everglades. The numbers of swamphens are competing heavily with the Everglades own indigenous birds as well as ruining the natural habitat.
In a combined effort between the Conservation Commission, the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shooters have been culling these colorful birds to control their numbers.
In one of the quickest and most explosive eradication programs ever aimed at an exotic species in South Florida, [they are] determined to wipe out a bird that has been rapidly spreading through wetlands in Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties.
Swamphens are originally from Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Europe and the islands in the Pacific. They were first noticed in 1996, in Pembroke Pines. It's theorized that they escaped from nearby breeders by researchers, and have now spread over the three-county area. Swamphens are mostly vegetarians, but will eat eggs, frogs, nestlings and fish.
"The bird is the size of a chicken and resembles the native purple gallinule. With large red bills and frontal shields, swamphens are iridescent blue to purplish in color and inhabit weedy wetlands"
Killing these birds has not been easy. The shooters use a shotgun, and feel that this is the most humane way to kill the birds from a distance. "These birds are shrewd when being pressured like this," exotic species coordinator Scott Hardin said. "I am not naive enough to believe we'll get every bird. But we can get them on the reproductive downside."
Local residents that know what is going on think it's very sad that these pretty birds have to be killed off but most do understand why it has to be done. However, Kim Schnitzius, who with her husband, Kevin, first called attention to the multiplying birds when they showed up 11 years ago in their Pembroke Pines backyard, gasped when told of the eradication effort.
"I think it's terrible," said Schnitzius, who now lives in Weston. "They're beautiful birds, and to kill something so lovely is such a shame."
As sad as this may be, these birds are destroying the natural habitat for our own native species of birds and other wildlife.
Do you think this is a responsible action by Conservationists?
Additional photos can be found here.
More about Swamphens, Conservation, Invasive species