Shorebird nesting season is underway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds beachgoers to watch out for and to avoid disturbing birds and their young. Shorebirds build shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches in spring and summer, hatching chicks that are difficult to see.
Shorebird nests, eggs and chicks are well camouflaged and can easily be missed and even stepped on unless people know to look out for them. The snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover are several of Florida’s beach-nesting shorebird species that face conservation challenges. Despite these challenges, shorebirds can benefit from increased awareness by the public.
“People visiting Florida’s beaches and coastline can really have an impact on whether shorebirds have a successful nesting season,” said Nancy Douglass, who works on shorebird conservation at the FWC. “Following a few simple steps while enjoying the beach can help nesting shorebirds succeed, giving future generations of beach-goers the opportunity to see these iconic birds along our coasts.”
For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure. Read the FWC’s plan for four imperiled beach-nesting bird species, part of the broader Imperiled Species Management Plan: myfwc.com/media/2720106/Imperiled-Beach-Nesting-Birds-Species-Action-Plan-Final-Draft.pdf. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance at www.flshorebirdalliance.org.
In addition to other migratory birds, all shorebird and seabird species found in Florida are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This year marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. This treaty, along with three treaties that followed with Mexico, Japan and Russia, set the stage for the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act andsolidified international commitment to migratory bird conservation. Learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial at www.fws.gov/birds/mbtreaty100.
Ways to protect beach-nesting shorebirds:
Keep your distance, whether on the beach or paddling watercraft along the shore. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are signals for you to back off.
Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting sites and use designated walkways when possible. Wildlife photographers should ensure that no camera equipment extends beyond posted area strings or signs and limit photography to no more than 10 minutes to avoid stressing nesting birds.
Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. This causes them to use up energy needed for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat or predators. Teach children not to chase shorebirds and kindly ask fellow beach-goers to do the same. Shorebirds outside of posted areas may be feeding or resting and need to do so without disturbance.
It is best not to take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them leashed and avoid shorebird nesting areas.
Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows, which can prey on shorebird chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.
Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, gently let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting birds, report it 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. You may also report nests that are not posted to Wildlife Alert.