Beachgoers and boaters can help protect rare baby birds and eggs
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 25, 2017) - This year, Memorial Day weekend will coincide with ultra-high “King” tides statewide—a “double whammy” for Florida’s rare and declining nesting waterbirds. Audubon asks holiday beachgoers and boaters to give birds, their nests and eggs, and tiny flightless chicks space.
"Memorial Day is always a fun time to be around or on the water, but this weekend will see ultra-high tides that will leave less room for people and nesting birds to share the same beaches," said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida's deputy executive director. "The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida's most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks. Birds like Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers, and Snowy Plovers are using Florida's beaches and islands right now to raise their young."
Many nesting bird sites are visibly posted and well-marked on Florida beaches to protect them from human disturbance. Unfortunately, when boaters or beachgoers enter posted areas, they may unintentionally cause the death of chicks and eggs. When parents are frightened from nests, chicks and eggs are left vulnerable to predators, overheating in the summer sun, crushing under foot (in the case of beach nesters), or falling and drowning in water beneath the nest (in the case of tree nesters). A single disturbance can destroy an entire colony. With less beach exposed during high tides this weekend, the risk is even greater that people will get too close.
"Whether or not the disturbance is intentional, the result for birds is the same," said Dr. Marianne Korosy, Audubon Florida’s director of bird conservation. "Together, we can ensure this holiday weekend is safe and enjoyable for people and birds alike."
Volunteer "bird stewards" will help chaperone nesting bird colonies on many Florida beaches this weekend. These stewards help educate beachgoers about nesting colonies while reminding them not to enter protected areas. For more information or to volunteer, email FLConservation@audubon.org.
Audubon's Memorial Day Beach Tips:
· Respect posted areas, even if you don't see birds inside them. Birds, eggs, and nests are well-camouflaged, and disturbance by people endangers the entire colony.
· Give colony islands some room, and when fishing, be sure not to leave any equipment behind. Always dispose of fishing line and tackle appropriately.
· Avoid disturbing birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.
· Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season. Even on a leash, dogs are perceived as predators by birds.
· Don't let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
· If you must walk your dog on beaches, always keep them on a leash and away from birds.
· Please do not feed gulls or herons at the beach. Also, do not bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, charcoal or fish scraps on the beach. They attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as Fish Crows, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and Laughing Gulls.
· Leave the fireworks at home and attend an official display instead. Impromptu fireworks on Florida's beaches and waterways can have catastrophic effects on vulnerable chicks and eggs.
· Beach-nesting birds sometimes nest outside of posted areas. If you notice birds circling noisily over your head, you may be near a nesting colony. Leave quietly, and enjoy the colony from a distance.