ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — While many are visiting the beaches this holiday weekend, bird advocates want people to be considerate of the protected birds that call the beach home.
The black skimmers are a threatened species and are protected. But volunteers say that someone knocked down all of the signs and fencing last week and disrupted the nesting area of hundreds of birds on St. Pete Beach.
"They snuck in, in the middle of the night. They set off a firework in the middle of the skimmers, which caused them to leave their eggs unattended, and by the next day, all of the eggs had been eaten by crows," said Holley Short with Audubon Florida.
Short says the skimmers nest on top of the sand, which makes the eggs easy prey for predators. She says it's why they nest in colonies.
The St. Pete Beach colony of about 400 black skimmers returned to their nesting area behind condominiums near the Sirata Beach Resort, and Audubon volunteers put the fencing back up to help keep the birds safe.
Volunteers say the best thing people can do to help protect Black Skimmers is:
- Give the birds about 100 yards of space
- Walk around colonies
- Never attempt to feed them
- Avoid bringing dogs or fireworks anywhere near a colony
- Know it's illegal to bother them
"We want them to be able to lay their eggs safely. In about a month, we'll have chicks, and we just want them to make it to adulthood so we can contribute to the skimmer population," said Short.
Short says July 4 weekend is the most dangerous time for the birds because fireworks can scare the birds away, causing their chicks to die.
She says that’s why it's critical to educate people about the protected birds now.