bird stewards

With Two Decades of Coastal Bird Protection, Audubon Sees Strength in Florida’s Diverse Volunteers and Nesting Sites


With Two Decades of Coastal Bird Protection, Audubon Sees Strength in Florida’s Diverse Volunteers and Nesting Sites

Coastal “bird stewards” from all walks of life volunteer with Audubon – and they are brought together by one common passion: caring for birds and the places they need. From the shores of Pensacola beach in Northwest Florida to the resurging colonies in Northeast Florida and all the way down to the busy beaches of South Florida, coastal birds depend on Audubon for protection.

Audubon respects the individuality of each of our volunteers and warmly welcomes all bird lovers regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, national or ethnic origin, politics, or veteran status.

Audubon’s diverse group of bird stewards are important ambassadors for nature, helping coastal visitors understand that beach birds are not just sitting idly on the sand in the summer and spring. The birds are often sitting on eggs and sheltering vulnerable chicks from the sweltering summer heat. Posts connected by twine and educational signs let beachgoers know that they can see bird families raising their next generation in those special areas. At nesting seabird colonies, bird stewards also set up spotting scopes so visitors can get close up views of the pale, speckled eggs and tiny, toddling chicks inside fenced areas.

Audubon coordinates coastal bird stewardship on beaches and islands across Florida because strong stewardship at all these differing nesting sites provides greater promise to the species Audubon works to protect. Events like tropical storms and red tide can devastate an entire colony of beach-nesting birds, but Audubon’s large and spread-out statewide presence gives each colony a fighting chance. If one colony doesn’t perform well, there are many more receiving Audubon protection.  

Just like Florida’s people, the nesting sites for Florida’s coastal birds are also unique. Some nest right along busy highways while others retreat to remote islands. Many, however, nest near the same beach hotspots that tourists love. Across the state, stewards chat with passersby about the special, sand-nesting birds while intercepting disturbances like volleyballs, drones, and unleashed dogs. These beach playthings cause birds to fly off in fright, leaving their eggs and chicks to literally cook in the hot summer sun. Bird stewards are also chaperones, returning wayward chicks to their posted safe zone so they aren’t stepped on or thought to be lost and “rescued” by well-meaning beachgoers.

When storms send waves crashing onto Florida beaches and washing eggs and chicks into the ocean, Audubon bird stewards are there to protect the site as birds usually attempt to re-nest. When red tides litter the shores with dead fish and sea turtles, bird stewards watch over nesting sites even more carefully. Adult birds may spend even more time away as they search for uncontaminated fish in inland waterways to feed hungry chicks. Audubon’s 20 year history of coastal bird stewardship makes a real difference between survival or failure of eggs and baby birds.

Want to help?

Audubon warmly welcomes all who care about Florida's iconic - and sometimes well-camouflaged - coastal birds.

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This article was featured in the Summer/Fall 2018 edition of the Naturalist. Click here to read the entire magazine.

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