Shorebird nesting season begins on local beaches

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GULF BREEZE, Fla. (WKRG) — The first shorebird nest has been discovered in the Gulf Island National Seashore marking the beginning of nesting season.

The National Park Service reminds visitors to watch out for these birds while enjoying the beaches along the Gulf Coast.

Gulf Island Park staff will monitor and mark off shorebird nests for protection.

To honor the 50th anniversary of shorebird nesting season at the park, Gulf Islands is giving commemorative Chick magnets to parkgoers.

Read the full release below:

GULF BREEZE, Fla. – National Park Service biologists discovered the first shorebird nests of the season, March 3, 2021

Each year, beginning in February/March and ending in late summer, the Gulf Island National Seashore provides important habitat for several species of ground nesting shorebirds including, least terns, snowy plovers, Wilson’s plovers, and black skimmers.

Visitors and locals can help protect shorebirds by proudly displaying the free 50th Anniversary Gulf Islands Chick Magnet and following posted speed limits. Beginning March 5 visitors may pick up pick up their free chick magnet at staffed park entrance stations and campground registration offices.

The magnet helps remind visitors to maintain the mandatory park speed limit of 25mph.  Adult birds and their tiny chicks are sometimes struck by vehicles while crossing roadways to access feeding and resting areas. By observing posted speed limits and watching for birds along the roadway, visitors can help to protect the nesting birds and reduce the number of road killed wildlife. 

“With the help of our community and those who enjoy the national seashore every day, we can ensure these nesting shorebirds have the best opportunity to welcome and reproduce their next generation,” said Acting Superintendent Darrell Echols.

Be advised that human intrusion into nesting closures can cause birds to take flight. Adult birds will often dive at intruders to drive them away from the colony as a protection behavior. Alarmed birds may then fly low across the road and into the paths of oncoming vehicle.  Bicyclists, walkers, and joggers are encouraged to be aware of bird behaviors along the roadways near posted nesting areas. 

Park staff will monitor beaches for nesting activity and temporarily sign and close areas as needed. Closed areas represent a very small percentage of the seashore and park officials request that visitors divert activities to other areas. If visitors find themselves besieged by birds, it means that you are near an unmarked nesting area or young chicks. Please leave the area by back-tracking your steps – the eggs are very small, well camouflaged, and hard to see.

Current closure information: www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/tempclosures.htm.

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