Don’t Run Through The Birds!

Don’t run through the birds!

We’ve all seen it before: a large public square, maybe New York City or a larger ancient public square in a foreign country filled with resting pigeons. A small child spots them and runs through, causing the flock to disperse. Or, a hand-holding couple walks through the resting flock only to suddenly embrace while pigeons take flight. Is it beautiful? Some people think so, especially film makers, and so now it’s the “thing” to run or walk through a flock of resting birds, flushing them out.

But for the birds, it is the wrong thing to do. I cannot speak for the pigeons but I will speak for the migratory shorebirds that rest along the Florida shoreline this time of year.


Migratory birds fly hundreds of miles to stopover at our beaches along the Gulf Coast. They fly at night and rest in colonies for protection.  For some, this is a layover before heading farther north in the late winter. So, that group of birds you see during your beach walk are tired. Some in the center are sleeping while the outer circle are on guard.

Migratory shorebirds need their energy to either fly further or to start nesting.

When startled, the birds scramble to get away from the predator: you. The sleeping birds are jarred out of sleep and know they must fly because the other birds are doing so. Instinct tells them they’re in danger and must take flight. Since the birds are resting so closely together, they risk injuring their wings as they hastily take flight.  Injured shorebirds cannot fly further to their nesting spots. They cannot fly to hunt for food and risk death.


Not all birds nest in trees. Many of the birds that come here to the Gulf Coast beaches are beach nesters.  They nest in the dunes, near beach grasses, or out in the open, The nest is a shallow scrape in the sand. It’s barely deep enough for eggs and the parent to sit in so shorebird nests are difficult to spot.

The colony of birds on the beach may be protecting nests with eggs or hatchlings.

When a person flushes the colony, the birds scatter leaving the nests, the eggs, or the hatchlings vulnerable to predators. Sea gulls or fish crows can swoop in and take the eggs or chicks. The sun’s heat can damage the eggs or overheat the chicks. And since shorebird eggs are so well camouflaged and the nests are hard to find, the person running through the bird colony can step on eggs, or cause injury or death to the chicks.

Even after the chicks hatch, they need a couple of months to learn to fly and become self-sufficient. If they cannot fly yet, you have put in harm’s way.

Danger to children

Although it looks like fun for a small child to flush the birds, please keep your children away from shorebirds on the beach. A child, getting caught in the flurry of confused wing flapping is at risk for getting injured as well.  Frightened birds may also defecate which could land on your child.

Keep your distance

If the birds become agitated and start to move away, then you are too close.

The child or adult who runs toward them with the goal of flushing the group to watch them fly around, is causing confusion and possibly injury.

Many of our shorebirds are on a national or state, endangered or threatened species list. They are federally protected and causing harm on purpose is illegal in many jurisdictions. In Florida is it illegal to disturb or harm wildlife. If you see someone not following the rules or spot an animal in distress, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at either 888-404-FWCC or *FWC. You might be surprised by the number of calls they get; don’t be the person being called on.

Shorebirds and pets

Many beaches are closed to pets. This also includes your cat. Take your dog to a dog-friendly designated beach. The rental office you booked your vacation with or the local visitors bureau website will direct you to the beaches that allow dogs. Do not let your cat roam the beach. They prey on birds and the endangered beach mouse (on the north Gulf Coast). It is possible they could dig up turtle eggs, too. Board your pet while on vacation if these rules are not possible to follow.

Pledge to protect

Pledge to save the chicks by protecting nesting shorebirds. Enjoy your time at the beach but remember that it is not your home rather it is home to wildlife. Please respect their home.


Draw a Picture of a Bird Day

April 8 is “Draw a Picture of a Bird Day” and I am going to challenge all of my readers to draw a picture of a bird.

I would love to see your picture so please  post it to the comments below.

You can draw any type of bird you wish: Blue Jay, Junco, Towhee, Robin, Wren. This is a creative activity and I thoroughly enjoy drawing bird pictures in my nature journal. It is a fun and relaxing activity.  You may want to start a nature journal this month.

Want a daily drawing challenge? Here are 30 ideas for drawing birds. For a printable version of this list click here.

30 Day Bird Drawing Challenge-page-002

April 26 is “Go Birding Day” so don’t forget to take your journal with you. Make lists of what you see, draw pictures, jot notes of the adventure. But most of all, enjoy yourself.

World Wetlands Day


Wetlands are often mistaken for wasted land but they are actually quite essential for world. These wetlands act as sponges and help soak up excess water so higher ground can stay dry and usable.  Wetlands also protect a whole unique ecosystem important for human. Algae, fish, plants, birds, shell fish and other creatures live in these wetlands. They help determine the environmental health of an area or a whole region.

The World Wetland Day organization explains it this way: “Livelihoods from fishing, rice farming, travel, tourism, and water provision all depend on wetlands.  And wetlands are vital to us in many other ways.  They host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.”

– See more at:

Art Prints to Save The Chicks

Like the Save The Chicks logo?

Well, you can have your own original print of this adorable little “e”-shaped shorebird on your wall.  I’ve made these prints to raise money to support groups that work hard during the year to educate the public and keep the nesting shorebirds and chicks safe.  Ten percent of the funds raised will be given this year to a group that works hard on Siesta Key, FL.

The prints are available at Crafty Beachcomber on Etsy so please check them out.  With each print purchase, you will also get a FREE Save The Chicks sticker for your car window or school notebook. Prints marked as medium have an image of 5×7 while prints marked as large will have a 6×9 image.

These prints make great Christmas gifts.

Spread the word and save the chicks!

Celebrate World Shorebirds Day

Today is World Shorebirds Day. Celebrate! Here’s how:

  • Check with your local Audubon or other ornithological group about events scheduled for the day or the weekend.
  • Learn all you can about shorebirds. There are some great books out there.
  • Visit any beach and just watch the birds. Don’t forget your book and some binoculars.
  • Make a pledge to Save the Chicks on this website.
  • Go to World Shorebird Day website and register on their map what beach you’ll be on today.
  • Count the birds you see and record them on World Shorebirds Day’s website.
  • Record on your birding experience. I’d love to hear from you.
  • Spread the word.

Ibis on the shore, Anna Maria Island FL

Shorebirds are an essential part of our world-wide eco-system. Shorebirds can help us monitor air quality, water quality, plant and food quality, migratory pathways and their hindrances, and more. Get to know what shorebirds can do you for you. You might find a new hobby or activity born out of this knowledge. Then get to know what you can do for shorebirds.

Pass it on!

Shorebirds, Plastics In Our Oceans & Marine Habitat Education

While searching for studies on how plastics affect shorebirds and seabirds I stumbled upon Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association’s website.

The site is filled with extensive information on the Northern California coast’s marine and bird and wildlife. The Sanctuary Association has developed educational programs for a variety of age groups about the unique habitats of the region.

Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association protecting our ocean wilderness through public stewardship

I highly recommend that you take some time to read about the Sanctuary and then work through the educational material. Click the image above to go to the site.

Back to plastics: July is Plastic Free July, according to an organization that spreads the word every year about the impact of single use plastics. challenges people worldwide to try to live without single use plastics for a day or for the whole month.

The impact of plastics on our environment is beyond our scope of imagination. Internet articles tell of how there is more to it than we realize. Plastic trash comes in all sizes: large trash, like waterbottles, to small particles, like the microbeads in personal hygiene products like toothpaste, are being ingested by marine life and birds. And it’s killing them.  Once ingested, it’s hard to digest and remains inside the creature’s stomach.  If your stomach always feels full then you don’t eat, right? Well, that’s the same for wildlife. Ingesting materials that don’t leave the stomach can cause starvation.  Some materials can cause poisoning.

Do what you can to keep our shorebirds plastic free. Check out the educational link above to learn about the sanctuary and birding habitats in Northern California. Then plan to minimize your plastics use this month.  You may end up with a good habit.

Save The Chicks.

Save the Red Knot

Small and lightweight, the Red Knot is a migrating shorebird that travels the world over 18,000 miles per year. This species of sandpiper is under consideration by the U.S. Federal government for its protection status, currently “Least Concern”, to be changed to “Threatened”. The Red Knot is vulnerable to over exploitation of shellfish, and the disturbance of habitat by tourism and recreational activities on the beaches. These activities reduce its nesting grounds, non-breeding habitat and food supply.

Breeding grounds for the Red Knot are in the Canadian and Russian Arctic, and Greenland. They breed in solitary pairs and make their nests, an open shallow depression, on small areas of vegetation surrounded by mud and water or on stoney ground or open vegetated ground. Food at the breeding location is not plentiful and consists of small insects, spiders, small crustaceans, snails and worms. Until insects are readily available, Red Knots also feed on vegetation. Because of the scarcity of food, Red Knots must gorge themselves along the migration trail, stopping at the Delaware Bay to feast on spawning Horseshoe Crab’s eggs. Here, Red Knots will double their weight during this feeding frenzy of roughly 10-14 days, to head north. Between June and August, solitary pairs will make their nest, usually about ¾ mile apart from each other, and maintain their territories. The nests are sometimes lined with dried leaves, grasses and lichens. The female usually lays four eggs that are olive in color with brown spots. The chicks leave the nest quickly learning to fly and make their migratory trip south.

Save the Chicks logo

Non-breeding grounds can include the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S., the southern coast of California and northern coast of Mexico. They are found also wintering in Massachusettes. But uniquely, these migrators travel to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America during our North American winter and then back to their northern breeding grounds for the short breeding period. During the non-breeding season, Red Knots will feast on intertidal invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans, insects, and sometimes fish and seeds.

The breeding Red Knot is a beautiful bird. It is usually a grey and white blending in with other shorebirds but turning a lovely russet color on its head and breast during breeding season.

Since the 1980s, the decline of the Horseshoe Crab in the Delaware Bay has contributed to the decline of the Red Knot. The Horseshoe Crab takes 9-11 years to mature, and finally at the end of May into early June each year, the female can lay as many as 80,000 eggs. The crabs can live about 16-17 years. Horseshoe crabs are often used as bait for fisherman, causing a decline in mature, egg-laying crabs. Red Knots need this source of food for their life cycle. Legislatures of Delaware, New Jersy and Maryland have done what they can to protect the Red Knot but not enough. Now the Federal government is getting involved and is asking for opinions. You can state yours by going to The docket number is FWS-R5-ES-2013-0097.

Why are these birds important? Birds in general are an important part of our global ecosystem. On various levels of the food chain, they are predators, consumers and the consumed. They provide host habitat for insects and help in the plant pollination process. Our feathered friends are also part of the global economy as birding promotes tourism and industry that produces bird watching supplies.

Please support Red Knots by stating that they should be protected with a “threatened” status. Although the government is currently shut down, the website is accepting opinions through the end of November 2013. Thanks for your support.

Save The Chicks.