Volunteer Flock Protects Sea and Shorebirds During Busy Nesting Season

From crafting bird decoys to educating beachgoers, coastal program volunteers were busy keeping shorebirds safe this summer.

Across Florida beaches, bays, and barrier islands, our volunteer flock works with Audubon’s coastal team to protect beach-nesting sea and shorebirds. During the spring and summer nesting season, they combine an array of talents to make the Sunshine State safer for birds. 


Have you seen volunteers on the sand wearing “Ask Me About the Birds” t-shirts? They are our bird stewards! They engage directly with beachgoers, explaining the wonders of the nesting season to locals and visitors alike. Their efforts reduce human disturbance in nesting colonies, and they alert Audubon staff to predation problems. 


Beth Reynolds taught herself to use woodworking tools to make Least Tern decoys for Rooftop Biologist Kara Cook. The decoys are placed on rooftops suitable for seabird nesting to alert the incoming birds that the habitat is safe. “I thought well, it looks like a crafty project,” Beth said. “I’ll figure it out.” 


Birds often choose the same nesting location year after year, and each summer Audubon volunteers are there to post signs and flagging to keep people at a safe distance from nesting birds. Posted areas are critical communication and protection tools to educate those less familiar with Florida’s beach-nesting bird species about the importance of keeping them safe. 


What happens when a chick at a rooftop nesting site falls to the ground below? Audubon volunteers carefully retrieve and replace them using using a chick-a-boom! Rooftop monitoring volunteers are a critical component of successful rooftop colony sites, and we depend on their eyes and ears to protect this unique habitat. 


When a dog beach was proposed on Sarasota’s Lido Key—where birds already struggle to find good nesting habitat—Audubon staff and volunteers jumped into action. Shorebird volunteers identified the threat of a proposed dog beach and mobilized to testify, convincing the county commission to look elsewhere for the project. Because of their efforts, Black Skimmers, Least Terns, and Snowy Plovers can flock to Lido Key beaches this summer. 


More than 2,000 Audubon advocates asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve fishing regulations at the Skyway Pier to protect Brown Pelicans and other nesting birds in Tampa Bay from entanglement. Another 700+ wrote to elected officials in the Florida State Legislature to ask for improved stormwater rules that will reduce the scourge of algal blooms along our shores. 


Jean Hall is passionate about photography. She travels the world taking beautiful images of wildlife, and when at home in Southwest Florida pays special attention to our native species. Her images and reports have accompanied conservation messaging across the country on social media, in news articles, across Audubon publications, and more! We rely on photographs from our volunteers to protect places for birds, as well as for the identification and recording of banded birds using our shores. 

Our photographers follow wildlife photography ethical guidelines. Learn more at: 

This article appeared in the Summer 2023 Naturalist. Read the full magazine here.

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