This time of year, beachgoers, fishermen, and boaters are enjoying our coastal areas in northeast Florida.
It's also the time of year when shorebirds undertake some of the most spectacular of long-distance migrations of any North American birds. Nearly two-thirds of the species that breed in North America journey to their arctic nesting grounds in the spring after wintering in Central and South America. Many species traverse more than 15,000 miles in this annual circuit. Red Knots fly 9,300 miles from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic, stopping along the way to rest and feed before resuming their arduous journey. It's critical for them to be allowed to feed without being disturbed - for some, it may make the difference between life and death! Please, keep your distance and don't allow children or pets to run and cause the bird to "flush."
In addition, shorebirds like Royal Terns, Least Terns and American Oystercatchers are beginning their nesting season on our Northeast Florida beaches. Some shallow beach nests and eggs are well-camouflaged. Even small chicks can be easily overlooked and stepped on. We have a decreasing population of several species so awareness can be critical to their reproductive success. Please take care and say well away from nesting areas to avoid disturbing the birds. Eggs and chicks become vulnerable to our hot sun and predators when a parent is forced to leave their nest from disturbance.
One way to help Florida's beach-nesting birds is to become a Bird Stewardat a beach or rooftop site. At beach-nesting sites, stewards who volunteer help ensure beachgoers do not enter fragile nesting areas and help educate visitors about the remarkable species that rely on Florida's shores for survival. Audubon will train you on the bird protections and biology you will need to be successful. Interested individuals should like spending time on the beach and interacting with the public.