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Environment

Sharing the Beach with Nesting Birds on Memorial Day

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Audubon

It's not just people who flock to the shore during Memorial Day weekend. Audubon Florida is reminding Floridians that birds are also nesting on the shoreline.

"Memorial Day is always a fun time to be around or on the water, but we're not the only ones who think so," said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida's Director of Wildlife Conservation. "The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida's most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks. 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."

Wraithmell says 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 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, ill-timed 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."

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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. Volunteers also help monitor colonies to collect important citizen science data about the birds' nesting efforts.

Here's some Memorial Day beach tips from Audubon: ·         Respect posted areas, even if you don't see birds inside them. Birds, eggs and nests are well-camouflaged with the beach environment, and disturbance by people 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. ·         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. ·         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. ·         Please do not feed gulls or herons at the beach, or 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. ·         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.

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