Least Tern and chick. Photo: Robert Cook/Audubon Photography Awards.
Least Tern and chick. Photo: Robert Cook/Audubon Photography Awards.

Least Tern and chick. Photo: Robert Cook/Audubon Photography Awards.
Least Tern and chick. Photo: Robert Cook/Audubon Photography Awards.

Coastal Conservation

Give Birds Space this Memorial Weekend and Save the Original Beach Babies

Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Wilson’s Plovers, Snowy Plovers, and American Oystercatchers nest on Florida coasts.

Audubon is calling on beachgoers to help make beaches safer for birds by avoiding their nesting areas during this busy holiday weekend and throughout the summer.

These special birds lay their eggs right on the sand. They perceive an approaching human as a threat and will take flight whenever people, or their dogs, approach too closely. Repeated human disturbance often results in birds abandoning the colony. If they can’t find a safer location, their nesting season is wasted. 

For a quick reference guide to the beach-nesting species, click here.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Audubon Florida’s bird stewards will be out in full force at locations across the state where people and beach-nesting birds commingle. These important ambassadors for nature help coastal visitors learn about the birds to better understand what is happening inside posted areas. 

“It’s easy to protect beach-nesting birds,” explains Marianne Korosy, PhD, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Florida. “Give them at least 100 feet of space if you can, enjoy watching them from a distance, dispose of litter properly, and keep dogs on a leash.”

Black Skimmer and chick. Photo: Jim Gray/Audubon Photography Awards
Black Skimmer and chick. Photo: Jim Gray/Audubon Photography Awards.

To make our beaches safer for birds:

  • Give nesting birds at least 100 feet of distance or as much as possible. Signs or people will alert you to these areas, but some birds haven’t settled down to start nesting yet and may just look like they are resting in the sand. Please avoid walking through flocks of birds on the upper beach.  
  • If pets are permitted on beaches, keep them leashed and well away from birds.
  • Remove trash and food scraps, which attract predators that will also eat birds’ eggs and/or chicks.  
  • Do not drive on beach dunes or other nesting areas.

To prioritize the safety of our staff, volunteers, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Audubon has limited capacity to set up informational booths on beaches and island to inform boaters and beachgoers to give beach-nesting birds their space at all nesting sites. Please be alert: if a bird dive-bombs you, you have gotten too close.

Across the state, Audubon’s Coastal Bird Stewardship Program engages local communities to protect beach-nesting birds from predators and disturbance, like dogs or humans getting too close. Due to compounding threats like sea-level rise and habitat loss, coastal birds are facing a crisis—seabirds around the world have decreased by 70 percent since 1950, and shorebirds in North America alone have seen an even steeper decline since 1973.

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 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.

How you can help, right now