The scene shown in the photo above by Georgia Wilson is what is supposed to happen in colonies of Black Skimmers, a beach-nesting species found along the coasts of North America. Adults feed fish to their chicks, which grow and prosper in the same places their parents did. She took the photo in 2016 on Indian Shores beach, on the Gulf coast of Florida.
Last week at another beach in Florida, that scene was marred when one or more people disturbed a skimmer colony, according to a story by WFTS, the ABC affiliate in Tampa Bay. The perpetrators knocked down signs and fencing meant to protect the colony.
“They snuck in, in the middle of the night,” Holley Short of Audubon Florida tells the TV station. “They set off a firework in the middle of the skimmers, which caused them to leave their eggs unattended, and by the next day, all of the eggs had been eaten by crows.”
The story notes that 400 Black Skimmers returned the next day and Audubon volunteers put the fencing back up to help keep the birds safe. They’re hoping that the birds will re-nest.
The news came just as Audubon Florida posted a story advocating for beach-goers to give birds space on beaches, especially over Memorial Day weekend. Here are tips from Audubon for making beaches safer for birds:
- Give nesting birds at least 100 feet of distance or as much as possible. Signs or people will alert you to these areas, but some birds haven’t settled down to start nesting yet and may just look like they are resting in the sand. Please avoid walking through flocks of birds on the upper beach.
- If pets are permitted on beaches, keep them leashed and well away from birds.
- Remove trash and food scraps, which attract predators that will also eat birds’ eggs and/or chicks.
- Do not drive on beach dunes or other nesting areas.
- Do not bring fireworks anywhere near nesting birds.
- Know that it is illegal to disturb them.
To learn about volunteering with Florida Audubon, click here.