Independence Day is a special time of year as millions of Floridians and visitors enjoy Florida’s iconic beaches. Celebrating with hot dogs, fireworks, and abundant sunshine, the Fourth of July is a dream holiday for people but can be a nightmare for birds. Most people don’t know that our beloved beaches are also home to many rare and imperiled beach bird species that Audubon works hard to protect.
I have worked with nesting shorebirds past seven years, and I still clearly remember the first time I stewarded at a site where beachgoers were setting off personal fireworks. The nearby Black Skimmer colony had many chicks, but most of them weren’t even flight-capable. When the first set of personal fireworks started going off, my heart started racing and my stomach dropped– all of the skimmer adults had flushed up leaving their chicks terrified and alone. I know they had to be scared without their parent’s protective wing and these loud booms echoing through their small bodies. They were running around the colony’s enclosure trying to find shelter and escape the bright lights. I’ll never forget how I felt and how badly I wanted the adult skimmers to settle down and rejoin their chicks.
We immediately alerted law enforcement and tried to dissuade the use of personal fireworks, but sadly some beachgoers continued. That night, I realized how important it is to be a bird steward throughout the nesting season, especially during the Fourth of July.
Audubon works closely with communities and beachgoers to reduce the major disturbances like those caused by personal fireworks on beaches. New signs like this are being used at nesting sites throughout Florida to educate beachgoers about the negative impacts of personal fireworks. Education is key, and hardworking volunteer bird stewards are on duty day-and-night to ensure the safety of the nesting birds.
Want to do your part for the shorebirds? Click here to learn more about sharing the shores, and be sure to leave personal fireworks at home and attend a public display near you!
Holley Short is a shorebird biologist with Audubon Florida and monitors several Southwest Florida sites.