Coastal areas have unique importance for many species wildlife—especially birds—offering critical breeding sites as well as rich sources of food for migratory stopovers. Booming coastal development and recreational use of beaches are eroding vital habitat and greatly reducing the areas where birds can feed and nest. You can help birds, and other wildlife, by ensuring that use of the remaining areas is compatible with wildlife use. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM SHOREBIRD HABITAT
Nesting and feeding areas are often posted with signs during breeding season. Even if these areas are not posted, be aware of the restrictions at your local beach and of activities that may not be appropriate for sensitive habitats.
Scaring a flock of feeding or roosting shorebirds—accidentally or on purpose—puts the birds in jeopardy, as shorebirds can feed only under certain tidal conditions. Disturbance prevents rest and feeding and can lead to reduced survival rates and reproduction. Never walk through an area where you see birds feeding, resting, or nesting. Instead, walk around, and you’ll help wild birds thrive by not disturbing them.
As tempting as it might be to get a close look at the cute chicks, this should be avoided. Even a single disturbance can cause adult birds to leave their nests and abandon their chicks, which can make the chicks and eggs vulnerable to predators and overheating. You will know if you are too close to a nest or chicks, as the parents will defend their nest by dive-bombing you, calling loudly, or feigning a broken wing nearby. Be a responsible beachgoer and bring your binoculars or a zoom lens camera and admire the shorebirds from a distance.
KEEP PETS LEASHED
Playful pooches want everyone involved in the fun, but their playfulness can wreak havoc on shorebird colonies in a matter of seconds. Birds perceive dogs as predators, even if the dogs aren’t chasing them. Respect the signs, and keep your pet leashed when near nesting, overwintering, resting, and feeding birds. There are some areas, such as wildlife preserves, that don’t allow pets at all—even on a leash. Many towns also ban dogs/pets altogether from beaches for reasons beyond wildlife protection. Be sure to know and should respect local dog/pet ordinances.
TAKE YOUR TRASH WITH YOU
A mountain of trash is no fun for birds. Leftover food attracts predators that can attack nests and young birds. Litter also sometimes contains materials that are hazardous or toxic to birds. If you do not see covered or wildlife-proof recycling and trash containers at the beach, take your trash with you and dispose of it properly. Don’t ever bury your trash on the beach.
DISPOSE OF FISHING LINE
Be sure to dispose of your fishing line properly in a monofilament recycling container. Birds can easily become entangled in loose line, which can trap, injure, or even kill them. Also remove bait and scraps from cleaned fish, which can attract predators.
AVOID FEEDING THE WILDLIFE
This seemingly harmless activity can draw predators, such as rodents, raccoons, gulls, and crows, to nesting areas, where they will prey on the eggs and chicks of beach-nesting birds.
AVOID NOISY ACTIVITIES NEAR NESTING AREAS
Beach activities like flying kites and drones, throwing balls, building bonfires, exploding fireworks, or riding horses, bikes, and ATVs can be good fun— but they can cause birds to leave their nest or chicks unprotected. And remember, ATVs or ORVs are actually not permitted on any public beach in Connecticut. When planning your beach activities, put yourself in the feathers of a shorebird chick. How would you feel if you were the size of a tennis ball, weighed two ounces, and couldn’t fly away from danger? Help nesting shorebirds by avoiding these activities.
VOLUNTEER TO BE A BEACH STEWARD
Nesting birds are a vital part of the ecosystem and a sign of a healthy beach. Teach others to appreciate beach-nesting birds. Contact Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can volunteer to contribute to Connecticut coastal stewardship efforts.
The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds is an innovative partnership of Audubon Connecticut, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, the Connecticut Audubon Society, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to conserve waterbirds and their habitats.