Audubon urges caution for Florida “Beach Babies”

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As summer approaches, thousands of people will flock to Florida’s greatest natural beauty—the beaches. One environmental group wants beachgoers to remember they are sharing the sand with other “beach babies.”

This Memorial Day, the conservation group Audubon reminds those visiting the Florida coast to watch out for the various species of birds that live on beaches and coastal islands. Much of this native wildlife have become endangered and increasingly rare.

“Memorial Day is always a fun time to be around or on the water, but we’re not the only ones who think so,” says Julie Wraithmell, Director of Wildlife Conservation for Audubon Florida in a press release.

“The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida’s most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks,” adds Wraithmell in a statement. “Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Least Terns and more are using Florida’s beaches and islands right now to raise their young.”

The beach is perfect for fun in the sun, but human activity close to nesting sites can damage nests and harm eggs and chicks. Often, unknowing beachgoers trample nests. Other times, humans force adult birds from their nests, leaving them unprotected. Chicks and eggs become an easy target for predators or suffer from exposure to the summer heat.

State and local officials, as well as Audubon “bird stewards” help support nesting colonies during the busy holiday weekend. In addition, Audubon offers some tips to help keep native birds safe:

  • Respect posted areas, even if you do not see birds inside them. Birds, eggs and nests can be well camouflaged in the beach environment, but disturbance by humans can cause the abandonment of an entire colony.
  • Give colony islands a wide berth, and when fishing, be sure not to leave any equipment behind. Always dispose of fishing line and tackle appropriately.
  • Avoid disturbing groups of birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.
  • 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.
  • 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 nesting birds, sometimes causing adults to flush at even greater distances than pedestrians alone.
  • Do not allow 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 the birds.
  • 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 for vulnerable chicks and eggs.

For more information about bird safety, or becoming a bird steward, contact flconservation@audubon.org or visit fl.audubon.org.

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.