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Florida Audubon Asks for Beachgoers’ Help This Memorial Day Weekend

| May 24, 2012

A black skimmer. (Jason Stuck)

This Memorial Day Weekend, Audubon is reminding Floridians to take care with Florida’s original “beach babies,” rare and declining species of waterbirds that nest on Florida’s beaches and mangrove islands.

“This is an exciting time of year to be around or on the water,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s Director of Wildlife Conservation. “Some remarkable birds like Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers and Least Terns choose these places to raise their young, and few things are more endearing than the fluffy chicks of these signature Florida species.”

Unfortunately, when boaters or beachgoers approach nesting birds too closely, they may unintentionally cause the death of chicks and eggs. When parents are flushed from their nests, chicks and eggs are left vulnerable to opportunistic predators, overheating by 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.

“Whether or not the disturbance is intentional, the result for the birds is the same,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, adding, “Together we can ensure this holiday weekend is safe and enjoyable for people and birds alike.”

Each year along Florida’s coast, state and local officials, along with Audubon volunteers, staff and partners, post many of the state’s beach and island nesting sites to prevent human disturbance. Additionally, volunteer “bird stewards” from local Audubon chapters and other partners will help chaperone nesting bird colonies on many Florida beaches this weekend. These stewards help educate beachgoers about the breathtaking spectacle of these colonies while reminding pedestrians not to enter protected areas

Citizens interested in safely viewing nesting colonies in person or wish to learn about volunteer bird stewarding opportunities are encouraged to email for more information.

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 within the beach environment, and a single disturbance 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.
  • Avoid disturbing groups of 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.
  • 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 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, 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.
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