Tyler Treadway Treasure Coast Newspapers
Published 6:00 AM EST Mar 4, 2020
Seabirds and shorebirds should start nesting on Florida beaches soon, but these days, they're more likely to be settling on rooftops.
Even those unnatural habitats are getting harder for the birds to find.
"There's just been too much loss of beach habitat and interruption from people, their dogs and predators for the birds to keep nesting on beaches," said David Simpson of Fellsmere, owner of Birding with David Simpson, a company offering guided birding tours and classes.
Birds that nest in colonies — least terns, black skimmers and American oystercatchers — and those that nest alone, such as Wilson's plovers, used to nest on beaches throughout the Treasure Coast. Now, beachgoers are unlikely to see nesting birds, except in a few sites.
Turns out, the beachgoers and their pets are a big part of the reason.
Most beach-nesting birds lay their eggs in shallow depressions in the sand, "not much more than dimples on the beach," said Ricardo Zambrano, a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The nests don't provide much protection, and the birds seem to know it. Often, a single encounter with a perceived predator is enough for the birds to abandon a nest or colony of nests, leaving eggs and chicks behind.
"Least terns are very sensitive to intruders," Simpson said. "They'll just up and leave."