During the month of February, Gulf County comes alive with all types of visitors, some wear sunscreen and flip-flops while others proudly display colorful plumes of feathers in hopes of finding a mate.
In Florida, as in most states, winter is the best season to observe the greatest variety of birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. If you are planning to visit our beaches during this time you will get the unique opportunity to participate in “voluntourism”. Not only will you get to witness the courtship dance of many threatened species of birds such as; the snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover, but you can also play a major part in improving the odds of successful fledging by volunteering in beach clean-up events and conservation projects. Everyone from grandparents to grandkids both local and visitors alike, join together to protect the nesting birds.
Volunteers at a beach clean-up event help to remove nets from the beach. Photo credit: Penny Weining
A few tips on how you can help shorebirds and seabirds while visiting a coastal community:
- Pay attention to signs and barriers and walk safely outside the roped off sections of beach.
- Notify bird stewards if you see eggs or nests outside the roped-off area.
- Dispose of trash in designated receptacles to keep the beaches clean for baby birds. Do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.
- Keep your distance. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are giving signals you need to back off.
- Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. They use up energy they need for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat and predators.
- It’s best not to take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them on a leash and make sure to avoid designated bird nesting areas.
If you are interested in becoming a bird steward or participating in coastal conservation volunteer activities, please send an email with your name, telephone number, and general location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Main article photo credit: Richard Cassell