No 4th of July fireworks on the beach to protect birds, Florida FWC says
Fireworks and poultry don’t mix, especially on the beach.
Trampling of feet or paws in the wrong places near dunes can also scare off breeding bird pairs, leaving their young behind for predators or deadly heat.
So be vigilant and don’t light any fireworks on the beach this July 4 weekend, urge Audubon Florida and state biologists, as many birds re-nest for their last chance to successfully breed youngsters this season.
“If a bird swoops down on you, you’ve come too close,” the nonprofit Audubon Florida warned in a press release this month.
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The bursts of bright color and the cacophony of fireworks cause havoc for coastal wildlife, say conservationists and biologists, especially beach-nesting birds. Every celebration bang triggers widespread panic, dispersing shorebirds and their chicks from their nests.
So Audubon, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others are urging the public to attend municipal fireworks shows, instead of trying to light impromptu fireworks. alone on the beach.
On July 13, the FWC will consider approving new permit guidelines and conservation measures to improve protection for the pygmy tern, black skimmer, snowy plover and American oystercatcher, which would enter into force in September 2023.
In the meantime, state wildlife biologists are urging the public to step in and watch where they step, especially among the dunes, where shorebirds nest.
Over the July 4 weekend, Audubon Florida will have “bird stewards” at locations across the state to remind people of how activities in certain displayed habitats can disrupt nesting.
Sea turtles and other marine animals are also threatened. They easily mistake the firework debris that litters the beaches and coastal waters for food, and the hungry chicks eat the little bits of plastic left over from the fireworks.
Among the most prolific along the Space Coast beaches is the least endangered tern.
The lesser tern, the smallest tern in North America, is protected by the United States Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as an endangered species in the Midwestern and Great Plains states by the federal Bird Act. endangered species, and as a state-listed threatened species under Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule. Harassing them carries penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
At least 125 pairs of endangered birds have chosen to roost near where heavy equipment is processing dirt for a high-rise hotel and condo development called The Vue at the northwest corner of Shearwater Parkway at Satellite Beach, 30 miles south of where NASA and SpaceX launch rockets into space.
Rampant nosy dogs, curious people, rocket launches and loud noises can scare skittish perching terns out of their nests, never returning to their eggs or chicks. These particular terns have therefore attracted the attention – and concern – of local birdwatchers and the FWC.
Besides the risk of scaring the lesser terns away from their nest, studies show that construction noise can prevent them from detecting approaching predators and mask alarm calls they would otherwise hear from other birds that sense approaching danger.
State law requires that nests be protected while active, and the developer cannot build anything in the marked area until the hatchlings leave, which usually takes about 90 days.
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The property where The Vue will be built is the former Satellite Shores subdivision. The aging neighborhood contained 105 rental units that were part of the former Patrick Air Force (now Space Force) Base Housing Annex.
Crews tore down the dilapidated duplexes in 2018. Terns have been flocking there ever since.
Terns, along with black skimmers and other shorebirds often nest atop the nearby Winn-Dixie and CVS on Fifth Avenue in Indialantic.
The breeding season for the lesser tern in Florida ends on September 1, although some individual breeding colonies finish breeding much earlier.
Audubon Florida urges the following this July 4th weekend:
- Keep at least 100 feet from nesting birds, or as much distance as possible. Signs warn of these areas, but some birds have not yet settled in to start nesting and may just appear to be resting.
- Don’t walk through flocks of birds on the upper beach.
- If pets are allowed on the beaches, keep them on a leash and away from birds.
- Remove trash and leftover food, which attract predators who will also eat the birds’ eggs and/or chicks.
- Do not drive over beach dunes or other nesting areas.
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