July 1-4: Independence Day holiday weekend. Beach stewards are needed at important beach nesting sites this weekend and all summer long. Check out the map of local stewardship opportunities and contact us to get involved!
July 20: Breakfast with the Birds - Seabird Restoration. Rookery Bay NERR at 9am. RSVP here.
As the 4th of July nears, our partners across the state may be wondering how fireworks might impact nesting shorebirds and seabirds, and how far away fireworks displays should be to ensure birds don’t abandon their nests or chicks.
While there’s little research out there to definitively answer these questions, there are documented reports that give us some idea of what may and may not be harmful to Least Terns and other beach-nesting birds. Many factors likely play a role on the impact of fireworks on beach-nesting birds: size and decibel level of fireworks displays, duration of displays, and the buffer distance between where fireworks are launched and the bird colony.
A report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that adult Least Terns completely abandoned a site within 0.15 miles of a fireworks display. This report also notes that fireworks set within 0.75 miles of a Least Tern colony resulted in “temporary abandonment” and “displays of distress” by the birds. It’s not clear from this report if nesting completely failed, or if adults only temporarily left the colony and there was no loss of eggs or chicks. This report also recommends a 0.75 mile buffer between Piping Plover nests and areas where fireworks will be launched.
Fireworks displays don’t always result in nest abandonment. Georgia Department of Natural Resources staff reported that a Least Tern colony 1.1 miles away from a fireworks display did not lose any nests or chicks. Also, during 4th of July in 2015, Least Terns nesting at Bird Island (Julia’s Island) in St. Johns County experienced a large firework display about 0.5 miles away. Smaller fireworks were also set off on the island, including one short burst about 25 meters from the colony. Interestingly, in this case nest numbers a day before and a day after the fireworks display were identical (77 nests). Total flightless chick and flight capable juvenile numbers also did not decline after July 4th. It is possible colonies experiencing disturbance in the later stages of nesting/chick rearing are less likely to abandon than colonies that experience disturbance earlier in the nesting cycle. More research is needed to provide better guidance on recommended buffers between nesting birds and fireworks displays.
The Florida Shorebird Alliance is Growing!
Meet some of the Audubon Florida and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission staff diligently working behind the scenes to conserve Florida's beloved shorebirds and seabirds.
Fireworks are a staple of summer celebrations, but both the noise and the debris left behind by fireworks can be harmful to wildlife. Fireworks tend to cause animals to panic in their efforts to flee the noise, explosive lights and the associated crowds of people, potentially resulting in stress, injury and even death. A review of studies concerning the impacts of noise on wildlife found that wildlife behavior and individual fitness was affected, ultimately resulting in changes to ecological communities.
“Fireworks launched too close or toward a nesting colony can cause adult shorebirds to flush off their nests and chicks to scatter, leaving the chicks vulnerable to predators, the elements and the potential of getting accidentally stepped on by beach-goers,” said Nancy Douglass, who works on shorebird conservation for the FWC.
In addition to the noise factor, fireworks leave behind particulate matter that is a source of air pollution, and some firework litter may cause physical damage to wildlife. Shorebirds, sea turtles, and other coastal wildlife may become entangled in or ingest debris. Errant fireworks can also cause wildfires, damaging wildlife and habitats.
Even with these risks in mind, it is still possible to safely enjoy fireworks by following some simple guidelines:
Leave personal fireworks, including sparklers, at home and attend an official fireworks display instead. Official displays must obtain permits which have conditions to minimize the impacts on wildlife.
If you see firework residue remaining on the beach, pick it up and throw it away, preferably in a lidded trash can away from the beach.
If you choose to use your own fireworks, do not ignite them near trees, dune vegetation, beach wrack, nesting areas, rookeries, brush piles or other sheltered areas where wildlife may be living. Remember that the only fireworks legal for personal use in Florida are sparklers, fountains, snakes, and glow worms—nothing that explodes, flies, or lifts off.
Follow all the proper fireworks safety tips to keep friends and family members safe; many of these common sense safety tips can also protect pets and nearby wildlife from unnecessary trauma or injuries caused by fireworks.
Spread the word about fireworks and report any activities that disturb or harm wildlife to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com.
Help Protect Beach-Nesting Birds this Summer: Become a Bird Steward!
The Florida Shorebird Alliance has a growing network of beach-nesting bird stewards. If you are interested and able to steward at a beach this season, check out the stewardship map and contact your local coordinator to become a Bird Steward this year.
Bird stewards have two important roles: they help protect beach-nesting birds from human and pet disturbance, and educate the public about sharing the beach with wildlife. Help is especially needed on weekends and holidays, including this 4th of July weekend.
Thank you so much for your patience while the Florida Shorebird Database (FSD) server was upgraded! The upgrade was completed on June 15th, and the FSD website should be working better than ever. If you encounter any issues or errors while using the website, please email FLShorebirdDatabase@myFWC.com. The Shorebird Program support team is standing by to help!
Also, did you know you can now look up real-time data in the FSD? After logging in to your account, scroll over to the Custom Search tab. There you can explore data entered as recently as the same day to as far back as 2011. Stay tuned for a video tutorial on the uses of the Custom Search feature!
Remember to survey your routes and rooftops during the next Count Window, July 8 - 14!
The Florida Shorebird Alliance (FSA) is a partnership of agencies, non-government organizations, and individuals committed to shorebird and seabird conservation in Florida. FSA partners coordinate their independent work and collaborate to address research, management, education, outreach, and public policy needs.