Staff Report for The Island Connection
This Memorial Day Weekend, Audubon South Carolina and Charleston Animal Society are urging beachgoers to be mindful of South Carolina’s original beach babes: the rare and declining bird species that nest on South Carolina’s beaches and barrier islands.
“The beach is a fun place to be during the long weekend ahead, but we’re not the only ones that will be using it,” said Nolan Schillerstrom, Audubon South Carolina’s Coastal Program Coordinator. “Memorial Day is one of the most dangerous weekends for shorebirds like the Wilson’s Plover and American Oystercatcher, who rely on the beach to nest and raise their young this time of year.”
Shorebirds nest on the sliver of beach where the water doesn’t breach at high tide, but far enough away from the dune grass that they can see predators coming from a distance. But shorebirds aren’t adapted to boaters and beachgoers, who can unintentionally cause the death of chicks and eggs if they approach this nesting ground too closely. When mature birds are flushed from their nests by humans or dogs, their chicks and eggs are left vulnerable to predators, overheating in the summer sun, and being crushed underfoot.
“Even though your dog may enjoy chasing the birds, it is harmful to them,” said Joe Elmore, Executive Director of the Charleston Animal Society. “Each and every year migrating and nesting birds rely on us to protect them. Please be kind to all animals and let them rest and nest!”
“The best thing we can do is simply let ‘em rest and let ‘em nest, which means giving the birds plenty of space so they can keep their eggs and chicks shaded and protected,” Schillerstrom added. “For these birds, it’s the difference between life and death.”
Audubon South Carolina and Charleston Animal Society have created simple tips everyone can use to have fun on the beach while letting shorebirds rest and nest safely:
- Respect posted nesting areas by keeping a safe distance away. If you see birds taking flight or hear them calling loudly, you are too close.
- Never chase birds on the beach. Gently explain to children that the health and safety of the birds depends on their cooperation.
- Do not allow dogs to chase birds. Birds can be negatively affected even if your pet doesn’t “catch” it.
- Keep the beach trash-free. Litter and food scraps attract predators to potential nesting sites.
- Be mindful of where you land your boat. You could be right on top of a nesting area.
- Spread the word and teach others to protect South Carolina’s precious shorebirds.
Demonstrate responsible dog ownership on the beach:
- Keep dogs leashed in accordance with beach rules.
- When you see a flock of birds, leash your dog and walk around the flock to minimize disturbance.
Serving as the state program of The National Audubon Society, Audubon South Carolina’s mission is to protect birds and the places they need, right here in South Carolina. Learn more at sc.audubon. org and follow on Facebook, Twitter (@AudubonSC), Instagram (@ Audubon_SC), and MeetUp (Audubon South Carolina Friends).