This Common Tern adds emphasis to the sign below prohibiting beachgoers from entering tern, plover, and oystercatcher nesting grounds at Nickerson Beach, Long Island. Photo: Debra Kriensky
Share The Shore
The Share the Shore campaign seeks to help people learn more about beach-nesting birds and become engaged as their protectors. Beach-nesting birds such as Piping Plovers, Common Terns, and American Oystercatchers are extremely sensitive to human disturbance. Beachgoers often unintentionally disturb beach-nesting birds because they are simply unaware that these birds nest on the wide, open, and bare expanses of sand. They may not realize that walking through nesting areas, leaving litter like fishing line and other plastic, or bringing their dogs to the beach can harm the eggs or chicks.
Beach nesting sites are often marked with signs stating the presence of nesting terns, plovers, or waterbirds. Biologists put string fencing (“symbolic fencing”) around breeding habitat in order to direct vehicle and foot traffic around nesting areas. In New York City, staff from a number of different agencies are responsible for patrolling these nesting sites to ensure their safety and success.
NYC Audubon conducts beach outreach in the Rockaways to encourage community members to Share the Shore. Under a pop-up tent on the boardwalk, we teach about beach-nesting shorebirds and encourage beach-goers to sign the Share the Shore pledge. In collaboration with RISE (Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity, formerly the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance), NYC Audubon has hired paid high school interns to help staff the tent during the summer months.
You Can #ShareTheShore in Several Ways!
With a little help, beach-nesting birds can survive and coexist with people! Below you will find some ways you can help these birds have a successful nesting season (in our area, April to September).
Be on the lookout for the following behaviors, which can indicate that birds are nesting nearby:
- Adult birds standing or sitting on the beach or near dunes
- Adults engaged in courtship, broken wing, or injury displays
- Adult birds dive-bombing people or pets
- Adult terns or skimmers carrying fish
- Nests or nest scrapes
- Eggs or chicks
If you see any of the signs above, please move away immediately to prevent the loss of nests, eggs, and chicks or the abandonment of nesting sites.
Follow these guidelines to protect beach-nesting birds:
- Stay out of areas that have been roped off for nesting birds. Some nesting and feeding sites are posted during the breeding season.
- Keep your dog on a leash and off the beach. Dogs may chase and harass young and adult birds and can destroy nests and kill chicks if not kept on a leash. Even if they don’t chase birds, their presence disturbs them.
- Avoid flying kites, throwing balls, and exploding fireworks near nesting and feeding areas. These activities can cause birds to leave their nest or chicks unprotected.
- Do not feed gulls on the beach. This seemingly harmless activity can attract gulls to nesting areas where they prey on the eggs and chicks of beach-nesting birds.
- Take your trash with you when you leave the beach. Garbage, including bait and scraps from cleaned fish, attracts predators to nesting areas. Fishing line that is left on the beach can entangle and kill birds.
- Teach others to appreciate beach-nesting birds. They are a vital part of the ecosystem and a sign of a wild and healthy beach.
- Learn to recognize potential nesting habitat. Be aware that not all nesting sites are posted. Since birds can nest on the upper portion of inlets and remote/undeveloped beaches, avoiding these areas during the nesting season will allow birds to tend to their eggs and chicks without disturbance. You will know you are too close to a nest or chick if terns begin to dive bomb you in defense of their nests or if birds call loudly or feign a broken wing nearby. Walk below the high tide line and quickly leave the area.
If you see someone harassing beach-nesting birds or their nesting site you can contact:
- New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: Parks Enforcement Patrol. Call 311.
- National Park Service: Parks Enforcement. Call 718.338.3988.
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Call 844.DEC.ECOS (844.332.3267) or file a complaint online.
Piping Plover chicks are well camouflaged against beach sand, making them easy to miss while you are walking on the beach. Photo: Jim Fenton