Beach-nesting birds, such as terns and plovers, are struggling to survive in Florida, often because of the intense disturbance by recreational beachgoers. Flushed from their camouflaged nests in the sand, adult birds watch helplessly as eggs and chicks are exposed to the hot sun and predators, or are crushed by unwary pedestrians, dogs or drivers.
One Florida beach species, the threatened Least Tern, has found a partial solution: most now choose to nest on gravel rooftops. However, these “beaches in the sky” have their own perils: chicks fall off roofs and perish. In Northeast Florida, Audubon’s “chick-checking” volunteers return these fallen chicks to their rooftops to rejoin their parents. Recognizing this is only an interim solution—because rooftops are no replacement for real beach habitat— we also help by encouraging public land managers to protect beach nesting areas, and we staff the posted areas on busy weekends with volunteer bird stewards, who act as ambassadors for the birds.
Here at Audubon, we recruit volunteers to assist with on-the-ground wildlife and habitat management. The benefits to wildlife are immediate and connect people with nature. This connection is a gateway for volunteers to quickly become educated on regional conservation issues, stay engaged for longer tenures, and move from volunteerism to advocacy.