Photo: Jessica Kirste
Every year, millions of birds take to the skies, flying to new places to safely feed or raise their young. Up and down the East Coast, shorebirds flock to the beaches. Some, like the piping plover, will nest there, raising their small, speckled chicks in the camouflage of the sand. Others, like the red knot, come in droves to use the beaches as a place to rest and refuel on their long journey.
Yet these critical places (which should be a sanctuary for nesting or migrating birds) aren’t always protected. Beach-goers can impact the birds’ sites and behavior, accidentally destroying habitat or scaring the birds away from their nests or food. Even those who don’t go to the beach can impact the habitat there pollution from thousands of miles away can end up in these habitats as streams and rivers makes their way to the sea.
Thankfully, there are some simple things that you can do to help keep shorebirds safe.
Respect the signs
On many beaches, I may find signs marking important habitat areas or nests. I will stay away from marked off areas, and always use designated walkways. Birds or nests could be there even if I can’t see them, and I could disturb or even harm the birds, eggs or chicks by getting too close.
Keep my distance
If I do spot birds or nests, I will keep my distance. Some of these birds have flown thousands of miles, and need their energy for the rest of the journey. And if I get too close to a nest, I could scare the parent away, leaving the eggs or chicks unprotected. I will keep at least 300 feet away, and if I want a better view that won’t disturb the wildlife, I’ll just bring a set of binoculars to the beach.
While off-road vehicles can be a popular way to spend time on the beach, they can disturb, harm, and even kill local wildlife. If I use these vehicles, it will only be in specifically designated areas, and never near a marked nesting area.
No pets please!
While people can read the signs and markers placed there to protect migrating and nesting birds, pets cannot. If I bring my pet to the beach, I will make sure it is leashed and kept far away from nests.
If I see a disturbed nest, or people damaging nests, I will contact the local wildlife agency for help.
Keep it clean
If birds mistake trash for food, they can choke on it or get tangled up in it. I will make sure that whatever I bring to the beach also leaves with me, and that all trash is properly disposed of. Food scraps can also attract predators, so I won’t throw any near birds or nesting sites.
Do my part year-round
Even when I’m not at the beach, I know that what I do can impact the birds there. Pollution of all kinds can end up in streams and waterways, and contaminate their habitat as well. I will make careful, informed choices about the products I buy everything from the fertilizer in my yard to the materials I use to clean my home.
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