A well-camouflaged snowy plover and her chick.

A well-camouflaged snowy plover and her chick.   

As nesting season begins for waterbird species across the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing five easy ways that members of the public can help conserve these vulnerable bird species.

Many shorebird and seabird species, such as the least tern, nest directly on beaches across the state where their eggs and chicks are well camouflaged in the sand. Colonies of wading birds, such as herons, will typically nest on mangrove islands off the coast. Biologists stress that the most important thing for waterbirds during nesting season is space. When these birds are disturbed and forced to leave their nests, their eggs and chicks are left vulnerable to heat and predators.

A black skimmer feeding its chick.

A black skimmer feeding its chick.

“Small actions can make a big difference for wildlife,” said FWC Florida Shorebird Alliance Coordinator, Shea Armstrong. “By taking a few steps to limit disturbance to nesting waterbirds, we can help ensure they have a successful nesting season and that they will be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Keep your distance from birds, on the beach or on the water. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. As a general rule, it is best to stay at least 300 feet from a nest and to avoid walking through flocks of birds whenever possible. Birds flushing, calling out loudly and dive-bombing are signals for you to give them space.

Respect posted areas, including Critical Wildlife Areas, which are established to protect congregations of one or more species of wildlife from human disturbance during critical life activities including nesting, feeding or migration. Avoid entering any area marked with signs for nesting birds and use designated walkways when possible.

Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, that can prey on shorebird eggs and chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.

It is best to not take pets to the beach but, if you do, keep them leashed and avoid shorebird and seabird nesting areas. Always take your pet to pet-friendly beaches and be respectful of the rules.

Know what to do if you hook a bird while fishing. Remember, don’t cut the line: reel, remove, release. Visit MyFWC.com/Unhook to watch an educational video that shows step by step how to safely unhook a bird.

It could save a life. For information, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach- Nesting Birds” brochure. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance website at FLShorebirdAlliance.org to learn more about how to participate in shorebird and seabird conservation efforts.

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