March 1 marks the beginning of shorebird nesting season

Posted on March 2, 2020 by Staff reports

A Least Tern nesting on Navarre Bridge in the Florida Panhandle (Audubon Florida photo).

Spring brings nesting sea and shorebirds to Florida’s coastlines. Making scoop nests right on the sand, the plovers, terns, and American Oystercatchers must overcome storm surges, algal blooms, and human disturbance to successfully fledge chicks each year.

So far, the first reported nests have come from Dog Island, with three Snowy Plover pairs successfully laying eggs.

Historically, the birds utilized only the beach and dunes, as the habitat lay close to their preferred food sources. Today, the sea and shorebirds also nest on road shoulders as well as gravel rooftops.

Audubon Florida’s Coastal Stewardship program deploys staff and volunteers to protect the nesting colonies, while educating visitors and locals on the best ways to keep the birds and chicks safe all spring and summer long. In addition to the 12 full time and 13 seasonal staff members, Audubon trains and organizes bird stewards, who volunteered more than 8,000 hours over the course of the 2019 season.

“I am very excited to work with all the conservation-minded volunteers we have in the Tampa Bay area,” says Holley Short, Project Manager, Bird Monitoring & Stewardship, for Audubon Florida, “I have an incredibly dedicated group that I am so lucky to work with to protect the birds. And of course I always look forward to seeing little, fuzzy chicks popping up at each site!”

“Seabird and shorebird nesting sites are vulnerable to human disturbance,” continues Dr. Marianne Korosy, Bird Conservation Director at Audubon Florida. “But thanks to Audubon’s stewardship program, nesting success improves when the birds are protected. After a good nesting season last year, we are hopeful for even better success in 2020.”

To protect birds in your coastal community:

  • Pay attention to signs and barriers and walk safely outside the roped off sections of beach.
  • Keep your pups on a leash, or take them to dog-friendly designated beaches.
  • Notify bird stewards if you see eggs or nests outside the roped-off area.
  • Dispose of trash in designated receptacles to keep the beaches clean for baby birds.
  • If you see a bird steward, ask questions! We love talking about Florida’s native bird species.

If you are interested in becoming a bird steward or participating in coastal conservation volunteer activities, please send an email with your name, telephone number, and general location to

Audubon Florida is also hiring for seasonal biologists, beach stewards and anchor stewards:

Pensacola Beach Steward

Navarre Beach Steward