The beach can be a wonderful place for a picnic, enjoying the sand and surf or spotting shorebirds and marine life, but while the beach is very attractive to humans, it is also the perfect spot for many nesting shorebird colonies such as gulls, plovers and terns. These birds can be very nervous nesters and may become frightened or agitated easily, causing distress to hatchlings. Beachgoers should always practice the appropriate bird and wildlife safety to share the sand with all the creatures who find it attractive.
Bird Beach Safety Tips
- Observe all posted signs about closed beaches during bird nesting seasons. Audubon chapters and government officials often close beaches where sensitive birds are nesting, and individuals who violate those warnings may be subject to hefty fines and other charges. When in doubt, contact a local birding organization or wildlife resource office to inquire about beach restrictions.
- Keep all dogs leashed while on the beach and do not permit dogs to chase the birds. Unsupervised dogs can easily destroy nests and kill or injure both juvenile and adult birds. Dog owners can be held liable for the damages their unsupervised pets cause.
- While most beaches do not permit vehicular traffic, if driving is allowed on the beach always maintain a low, safe speed and avoid driving near flocks of birds. Also avoid driving over dunes or near vegetation that may conceal nests.
- Avoid vigorous activities near nesting areas. Large kites, particularly those with long tails or that make fluttering noises, can be perceived as predators and may scare adult birds away from the nests. Similarly, avoid playing Frisbee, volleyball or other games near nesting areas to minimize the risk of players inadvertently intruding on the birds’ territory.
- If picnicking on the beach, do not leave any food scraps or other litter on the sand, and do not bury it on the beach. Leftover food can attract raccoons, gulls, rats and other predators that can attack nests and young birds, and litter may contain materials that are hazardous or toxic to the birds. Similarly, fishermen should not leave fish parts on the beach.
- Avoid feeding the birds. In particular, bread products are unhealthy for the birds, and excess food can attract additional predators.
- Do not shoot off any fireworks on the beach. To do so is illegal in many locations, and fireworks pose many dangers to birds. Not only will the noise and flares scare the birds, but leftover ash, wrappers and other debris is toxic and can be fatal.
- Avoid swimming in the water in front of or near nesting areas. In case of swimming difficulties, it could be difficult to avoid landing on the restricted beach, and it is necessary to keep the water clear for feeding birds.
- Shorebirds will be most active and noisy in the early morning and late evening. If you are planning beach activities, keep this in mind in terms of bird aggression and noise.
- Report any unmarked nests to the proper authorities, including beach officials and wildlife offices. They will take appropriate action to protect the birds as necessary once the nest is verified.
A trip to the beach is a great activity during the summer months, and bird-friendly beachgoers will always be aware that they share the sand with nesting birds. Taking proper safety precautions to protect the birds while you visit the beach is a great way to be a responsible birder.
Photo – Beach Nesting Warning Sign © Erik Skiff