Beach-nesting birds mate, lay eggs, and raise their young on the sand—in places where people might want to spread their beach towels or take a walk. Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and Snowy Plovers nest here in the spring and summer, and they are threatened species or species of special concern in Florida that need our protection. Please observe posted nesting area signs and avoid places on the beach where birds are flocking.
Black Skimmers nest in colonies. When born, the baby skimmer's upper and lower bills are equal in length. It isn't until the skimmer is almost ready to fly that the lower bill grows longer. Skimmers are the only birds with this longer lower bill, enabling them to skim the water with lower bill submerged and the upper bill clamping down when encountering a fish.
The Least Tern, our smallest tern and the only one that has a yellow bill with a black tip, nests in colonies on the beach. They can be easily spotted from the beach as they dive for small fish to feed their chicks. To ward off an intruder who gets too close to a nest, the terns will hover above and dive-bomb the intruder. If you are the object of this behavior, move away slowly.
Snowy Plovers are solitary nesters widely distributed over the beach area. They are very protective of their nests and chicks. When a predator comes too close to a nest, plovers may pretend to have a broken wing and flop along the ground away from the nest. This behavior draws the predator away from the nest in pursuit of the easier prey. If you observe this display, carefully leave the area.
How You Can Help
Unprotected nests invite predators and expose eggs to harmful sunlight.
- Be careful not to frighten birds and cause them to fly.
- Keep pets away from nesting areas.
- Always keep your distance.
- Obey all nesting area signs.
- Watch where you walk to avoid stepping on a nest or chick.
- Drive slowly and watch the road ahead to avoid hitting a chick or adult.
Chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and wander off, sometimes going into the road following mom and dad. Some nesting areas are not posted.