Coastal Conservation

The 2024 Nesting Season for Southwest Florida Coastal Birds is Underway

Boaters and beachgoers urged to give space to nesting birds along area beaches.

Naples, FL - Beach-nesting birds have begun their breeding season along Florida's coasts. Spring and summer mark critical times of year for these vulnerable species, as they must avoid human disturbance, storms, and predators to successfully raise their chicks.

Sea and shorebirds lay their eggs right on the sand. They perceive people and dogs as threats and will take flight whenever boaters, beachgoers, or dogs approach too closely. Repeated human disturbance often results in birds abandoning the colony. To limit the human disturbance of nesting birds, important nesting areas are posted, or roped off, and closed to people while the state-Threatened birds such as Least Terns and Black Skimmers incubate eggs and raise chicks.

In Collier County, Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) is now closed to boater access and landing through August 31 to allow for the birds to nest undisturbed. The shell island is located at the south end of Cape Romano, south of Marco Island.

“Additional postings will be put up on Collier’s historically important nesting beaches, like Big Marco CWA, Morgan Beach, and Dickman’s Point, in the coming weeks as the birds choose nesting locations for their 2023 summer breeding season,” said Megan Hatten, Audubon’s Southwest Florida Shorebird Program Manager.

Postings often consist of informational signs connected with string and flagging around nesting birds, particularly the state-protected, beach-nesting species.

Staying out of posted nesting areas and giving the birds plenty of space allows birds to successfully raise their chicks. These birds nest directly on the sand and shell shoreline, and are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance.  It is important for boaters to heed signage and avoid areas posted as "no trespassing," even if they don't notice any birds. “We also expect Snowy Plovers and Wilson's Plovers will nest in the Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area, which will be posted after April 1,” she added.

How to protect beach-nesting birds so they can raise the next generation of chicks to adulthood:

•             Respect posted areas, even if you don’t see any birds inside.

•             If birds dive-bomb you, carefully move away as there may be a nest nearby.

•             Ensure no trash or food remnants are left behind, as this can attract predators.

•             Keep dogs on a leash (if they are allowed on the beach at all), on board your boat, or at home.

Audubon Florida protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1900, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at

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