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Coastal Conservation

Protect Beach-nesting Birds from Fireworks this July Fourth Weekend

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

Independence Day is a cause for remembrance and celebration. Unfortunately, celebratory fireworks can literally frighten birds to death. 

Although beachside fireworks shows are entertaining 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 predators and heat until their parents return. For this reason, it is better to attend a municipal firework show versus deploying store-bought fireworks on the beach.

Debris 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 nibble on plastic refuse, even ingesting some of the smallest pieces. 

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

Audubon Florida urges Floridians and visitors to let the birds nest in peace by not deploying personal fireworks on the beach. 

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

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.

·       Attend a municipal fireworks show instead of deploying personal fireworks.

​In addition to natural threats such as hurricanes and predators, beach-nesting birds face a suite of other challenges, many of which are human-induced. This includes vehicular traffic, kites, off-leash dogs, getting stepped on, and firework displays on crowded beaches. These disturbances can cause adult birds to abandon their nests or chicks, which can ultimately lead to chicks starving, getting eaten by a predator, or overheating in the sun. This Fourth of July weekend, many birds are re-nesting and will have their final opportunity to successfully raise young this season.

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 islands 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.

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