Bird advocates are working to educate the public about the importance of nesting areas on Sarasota beaches.
If you’re thinking about setting off fireworks at one of Sarasota’s beaches to celebrate this Fourth of July, Kylie Wilson would strongly encourage you to think again.
First of all, it’s illegal. But if that’s not enough of a deterrent, Wilson warns that it could have a catastrophic effect on the birds that nest in the area. On Lido Beach, where a large colony of black skimmers includes more than 130 recently hatched chicks, the loud noises could cause the adults to abandon their newborns.
“They can have a horrible impact on the colony,” Wilson said of fireworks.
Wilson is the shorebird monitoring and stewardship coordinator for the Sarasota chapter of Audubon Florida. In that role, she’s working to increase public awareness of how to interact with the birds that nest on Lido Key, Siesta Key and Longboat Key.
There are a few major tips to be aware of. Don’t disturb the roped-off nesting areas. On Lido, large groups of birds travel outside of those areas to cool off alongside their chicks. Walk — don’t run (or bike) — through those areas. It might seem like a fun photo opportunity to make the birds scatter, but it leaves the flightless chicks vulnerable.
Keep dogs away from the nesting areas. Pick up your trash and other belongings. Don’t feed birds on the beaches, because gulls and crows will prey on the newly hatched birds if given the opportunity.
“Once they’ve stopped eating your potato chips, they go into the colony and they eat the eggs and they eat the chicks,” Wilson said.
Audubon Florida is seeking volunteers to help educate the public on the beaches during the upcoming Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix and the Fourth of July holiday. Those interested can contact Wilson at [email protected]. The goal is to keep the birds protected as the nesting season continues through the end of summer.
“Right now, word of mouth is one of the best ways we can make sure people are getting that knowledge,” Wilson said. “The signs are only good if people read them.”