Many shorebirds and seabirds depend on open sandy beaches to breed, feed, and rest. One of the greatest threats beach-nesting shorebirds face is disturbance from people, pets, and vehicles in the nesting area. Under these circumstances, signs posted around the nests are not enough to prevent people from disturbing nesting birds, and it requires time and effort from caring individuals, or beach stewards, to monitor the nests and chicks.
HOW IT WORKS
Shorebird steward programs are organized by shorebird partnerships throughout Florida. Where and when bird stewards will be needed is not fully determined until the birds have started nesting. This usually starts in March and can run into September, depending on the bird species. Stewarding begins after the nests and colonies are located and posted by biologists. Although the greatest needs for stewards is on weekends and holidays, stewarding can be done anytime an area has active shorebird nesting. While out on the beaches, stewards carry out two important tasks: 1) minimizing disturbance to nests, chicks, and adult birds and 2) public outreach and education about beach-nesting birds.
Programs typically equip their volunteers with: gear to help identify as an official bird steward; optics to allow beach goers a closer look at nest and chicks; and educational materials with information on beach nesting birds and how to help protect them.
Several bird steward programs exist across the state. Volunteers are always needed, so sign up to help at any time. To join a program near you, please click on a yellow flag near your location on the map below and contact the local coordinator or email Audubon Florida.
Bird Steward Programs
Photo Credit: Holly Short