FWC: Fireworks and nesting birds don’t mix

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks the public to help protect beach-nesting shorebirds across the state this holiday weekend by giving them space and keeping personal fireworks off the beach.

Shorebirds are nesting on beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida, with many still watching over flightless chicks during the busy Independence Day weekend. The snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover are several of the state’s beach-nesting shorebird species that face conservation challenges and need people’s help to survive.

“Fireworks launched too close or toward a nesting colony can cause adult shorebirds to flush off their nests and chicks to scatter, leaving the chicks vulnerable to predators, the elements and the potential of getting accidentally stepped on by beach-goers,” Nancy Douglass, who works on shorebird conservation for the FWC, said. “Leaving personal fireworks at home and giving the birds space are ways that residents can still enjoy the beach while helping to keep shorebirds and their chicks safe.”

Ways to protect beach-nesting shorebirds this holiday weekend and beyond:

Leave personal fireworks, including sparklers, at home and attend an official fireworks display instead.

Keep your distance, whether on the beach or paddling watercraft along the shore. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly or dive-bombing are giving signals for you to back off.

Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. They use up energy they need for nesting, and eggs or chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat or predators. Teach children not to chase shorebirds and kindly ask fellow beach-goers to do the same.

Respect posted shorebird nesting areas. Avoid posted sites and use designated walkways when possible.

It is best not to take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them on a leash and avoid shorebird nesting areas.

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

Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, gently let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ chances for survival. If they continue to disturb nesting shorebirds, report their activities to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.

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