Tallahassee, Fla. — America loves fireworks. The local bird species, however, can be frightened to death. Literally.
Each year on Independence Day, people join together to watch multicolored fireworks shoot up into the dark sky. This summer, 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.
Additionally, refuse 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.
In 2017, an Audubon Florida trail camera showed parent birds at a Black Skimmer colony in Pinellas County scattering off their nests after fireworks were deployed nearby. Those birds returned, but such was not the case for another colony that, years earlier, was completely abandoned after fireworks were deployed inside the colony. After this sad event, Audubon Florida launched a novel program to heighten protection during the evening of July Fourth, including fencing off the colonies for twilight hours so the chicks do not scatter outside of the colony when disturbed by fireworks. All netting is taken down before midnight—in time for the nesting sea turtles to access the beach areas.
Early July is when the tiny skimmer chicks are in their downy feathers, making them particularly vulnerable when panicked into leaving the safety of their colonies. Audubon Florida's anchor stewards and volunteers are present at these colonies on July Fourth and throughout the summer to keep the birds safe and educate visitors about how to help wildlife during the busy beach summer months.
“Audubon bird stewards welcome your visits to active nesting sites to see nests and fluffy chicks and answer your questions about beach-nesting birds on the evening of July Fourth,” said Marianne Korosy, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Florida.
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.
If you are interested in becoming a beach steward or participating in coastal conservation volunteer activities, please send an email with your name, telephone number, and general location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audubon Florida protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.
Link to PSA video on protecting beach-nesting birds