American oystercatchers resting on the beach. (Photo by Brice Claypoole)
We're so lucky to live near the beach, and we love going there. But, for some the beach is necessary to their survival. Among those who depend on the beach are turns, gulls, sandpipers, sanderlings, willets, plovers, black skimmers and other birds.
Many of these birds migrate hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles. There aren’t (well, weren’t) many dangers here so it was the perfect place to rest, rebuild their strength and raise their babies.
Now, lots of people come to the beach. That wouldn’t be a huge problem if we were all kind and respectful to the birds. But not everybody is. Many people chase them and some even throw sand at them. Some people just don’t want to go the extra distance around them. I have to admit, years ago before I knew better, I chased them, too.
The birds settle back down though, so what’s the problem? Well, there are two big problems. The first problem is that these birds are here to rest and having to fly away from someone every few minutes is tiring. If they’re not well rested for their next migration, they may not make it. The other problem is when they’re forced to leave the beach, their babies are an easy meal for predators.
I don’t blame people for scaring the birds. Most of them have no idea what they’re doing. I certainly didn’t and would never have chased them if I knew that could harm them. You wouldn't either, right? That’s why I’m writing this article; I want to spread the word.
Though I do not blame anyone, I am saddened watching the birds just trying to survive while somebody runs into the middle of them for the perfect selfie.
I do know most of us, adults and kids, love the birds and so here are 6 things you can do to help them.
1. Don’t chase the birds.
2. Don’t go in the dunes. Some birds lay their eggs there, they are camouflaged and easy to step on.
3. When walking to or along the water go the extra 10 or 20 feet around the birds to avoid scaring them.
4. Don't feed the birds. If they are fed too often, they can become dependent on people for their food. And anything besides the fish, crabs and other plants and animals they eat in the wild can make them weak or sick.
5. Pick up trash. Birds can get entangled in and suffocated by trash, so we need to help by picking it up.
6. Spread the word! Tell others about the birds or post a picture on social media and explain how people can help.