American Oystercatcher photo by Robert Blanchard

Bursts of color and noise wreak havoc on nesting birds

From Florida Audubon

Independence Day is cause for remembrance and celebration. Unfortunately, people’s celebratory fireworks can actually frighten local birds to death.

This year, pounding waves during Tropical Storm Cristobal wiped out sea and shorebird nests up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida. As a result, many Black Skimmers, Least Terns, Snowy Plovers, and Wilson’s Plovers have re-nested – just in time to hatch chicks for the Fourth of July. These young birds are especially vulnerable to both disturbance and predators.

Least Tern photo by William Dix

“This has already been a tough year for beach-nesting birds,” says Marianne Korosy, Ph.D., Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Florida. “If we can share the shore and give sea and shorebirds their space, this second round of chicks could be the difference between a successful and failed nesting season.”

Audubon Florida urges you to let the birds nest in peace by not deploying personal fireworks on the beach. As entertaining as beachside fireworks shows are to people, the bursts of color and noise wreak havoc on coastal birds—especially for nesting species. After each fireworks explosion, birds panic and fly from their nests, scattering the chicks and exposing them to danger until their parents return. For this reason, it is better to attend a municipal firework show versus deploying store-bought fireworks on the beach.

To make matters worse, debris left from the fireworks litter our beaches and near-shore waters and can be easily mistaken for food by sea turtles and other marine animals. Hungry chicks can nibble on plastic refuse, ingesting some of the smallest pieces.

Audubon Florida works on multiple fronts to protect nesting birds during the summer, and especially during busy holiday weeks.

On this Independence Day, enjoy the local community’s fireworks display and leave personal fireworks at home.

More suggestions for protecting birds on the beaches include:

  • Pay attention to signs and barriers and walk safely outside the roped-off sections of beach.
  • Keep your pups on a leash, or take them to dog-friendly designated beaches.
  • Notify beach stewards if you see eggs or nests outside the roped-off area.
  • Dispose of trash in designated receptacles to keep the beaches clean.
  • If you see a beach steward, ask questions! We love talking about Florida’s native bird species.

Are you interested in volunteering to protect these birds over the holiday weekend? Email flconservation@audubon.org

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