July 1, 2008

Nesting Birds Fare Better Without Rockets’ Red Glare

By Susan Green, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Jul. 1--TAMPA -- TAMPA -- Fourth of July traditions like fireworks and kite-flying can be scary for nesting birds, and Audubon of Florida is asking boaters and beachgoers to avoid celebrating near roped-off and marked areas on Tampa Bay islands and Pinellas County beaches.

Many of the Bay's nesting birds, including brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets and terns, have young chicks that are vulnerable to predators or the sun's heat. Frightening adult birds away from their offspring can spell death for the chicks at a time when some Tampa Bay species are flirting with extinction.

Ann Hodgson, Audubon's Coastal Islands Sanctuaries manager, said today most of the islands in Tampa Bay are marked off-limits to people year-round, but wardens have had to remind boaters to stay off the island beaches numerous times this year.

The only island beaches open to the public are Beer Can Island and the east side of Fantasy Island. A rare American oystercatcher has set up housekeeping on the west side of Fantasy. Hodgson said the nesting area has been roped off and visitors are asked to stay at least 50 feet away from the twine line.

Beachgoers also are asked to keep dogs on leashes and away from nests and to dispose of trash and food scraps off the beach. Leftover food attracts predators of chicks and eggs like fish crows, raccoons, foxes and laughing gulls.


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