Small changes in behaviour can help people and beach-nesting birds live together in harmony. Follow these 6 simple steps to become a bird-friendly beachgoer.
Beach-nesting birds rely on coastal habitats to live and breed. However, the coast is also where most Australians live and holiday. The peak time of coastal use happens to coincide with the breeding season for our beach-nesting birds (spring and summer months). Our actions can endanger these birds, but small changes can have big impacts.
Beach nesting birds can be highly cryptic, with camouflaged eggs and chicks. Often, the general public doesn’t even realise they’re there. This can result in eggs and chicks being crushed, and the adults staying off the nest and away from the chicks for extended periods, causing the eggs to bake in the sun and chicks to overheat.
Beach-nesting birds respond to people as threats. People undertake many different types of recreation on the beach which can add increased impact on the birds’ nests, chicks, adult survival and even habitat conditions, without the person even knowing they’re having an impact.
Watch out for birds and nests on the beach, and give them plenty of space!
Our volunteers and land managers work hard to monitor the birds, find nests and assess their vulnerability to human impacts. If they are at risk, signage and temporary fencing will go up around the vulnerable zone. This helps rule out the chance of stepping on a camouflaged nest and gives the birds a bit of a buffer from disturbance. Keep an eye out for these on beaches, and if you see them, read the signs carefully and follow the advice.
It is best to quickly pass by these areas along the water’s edge and not linger near the area, and to always ensure if dogs are permitted, that they are on a lead.
Unleashed dogs can cover a lot of ground on a beach, exploring, and moving unpredictably from the water to the upper beach or even into the dunes. Across the beach, they are likely to encounter eggs and chicks, and crush them.
To mitigate the threat of off-leash dogs, it’s as simple as using a leash, walking in a different direction, or choosing an off-leash site that doesn’t have breeding birds.
Discarded rubbish, especially things like plastic bags and containers, can be harmful to birds and other wildlife. This is true on the beach and in the ocean as it is elsewhere in nature.
Always ensure that you pick up your own rubbish. And if you’re keen to make a real difference, when you see somebody else’s discarded rubbish on the beach, remove and dispose of it where it is safe to do so.
To keep wildlife safe, pick up your rubbish and ensure that the beach is at least as pristine when you leave as it was when you arrived.
Vehicles and horses on beaches are also high-impact threats to these birds, where drivers and riders are unlikely to see the birds — let alone their nests and chicks!
Also, repeated use of the coast leads to changes in the sand compaction and depletes and alters the infauna/invertebrates (i.e. the food availability for these birds).
On some beaches, vehicle tracks cover every inch of sand and there is no longer a place for these birds to nest. When cars are parked in front of breeding areas, this separates the birds from their feeding areas and causes chicks to starve on busy days.
Be mindful of where you park your car on the beach, and choose a different, non-nesting beach for high-impact activities.
A range of educational activities, resources, and often creative ways have been engaged over the last two decades to create coexistence between beach users and beach-nesters.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming events and information sessions here.
Five Australian shorebirds, and many species of seabirds, rely on coastal habitats for nesting. Loss of coastal habitats and recreational pressures are taking a devastating toll.