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Audubon’s Shorebird Stewardship Program on how to share the shore with coastal birds

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A Least Tern nest on Hunting Island

A Least Tern nest on Hunting Island | Photo via Audubon South Carolina

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As we get ready for upcoming Independence Day celebrations at the beach, it’s important to remember that we share the coast with more than just human beings.

The beaches, sandbars, islands, and shores of South Carolina are home to coastal birds that need space on beaches to hatch + raise their young. Nesting birds need at least 100 feet of space to successfully raise their young.

Wilson's Plover

A Wilson’s Plover chick weighs less than a scoop of ice cream | Photo via Audubon South Carolina

Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards

Due to coastal birds’ impressive camouflage, beachgoers are often surprised to learn numerous species nesting directly on beaches and high ground dry sand areas — above the high-tide line and far enough away from the dune grass that they can see predators coming from a distance.

Beach-nesting bird parents spend all summer shading their eggs + chicks, protecting them from predators. When dogs or humans come too close, these birds are frightened away — leaving their eggs + chicks vulnerable to deadly threats including overheating, predation, and even being crushed underfoot by unaware people. It only takes a minute or two of mom and dad being spooked off the nest for eggs and chicks to die in the heat.

Bull Point

Bull Point | Photo via Audubon South Carolina

How can we help? A row of signs along the high tide line designate where nesting areas are on a beach. The best rule of thumb is to stay far away from that line, closer to the water line.

How to become a volunteer:

Group of volunteers

Audubon’s staff and volunteer stewards work hard to give beach birds a fighting chance by educating the beachgoing public | Photo provided

Due to compounding threats — including sea-level rise, climate change, habitat loss + human disturbance — North American seabirds have decreased by 70% since 1950, with an even steeper decline in North American shorebird species, which have declined by 70% since 1973.

Audubon’s Shorebird Stewardship Program aims to reverse these trends across South Carolina by engaging coastal communities and visitors in the protection of beach-nesting birds.

Volunteer on a beach

Volunteers and staff also advocate for climate solutions by having conversations with elected officials about the threats that coastal birds face | Photo via Audubon South Carolina

Learn more about how to protect coastal birds by becoming a volunteer.

Audubon Guide

A useful guide on how far to stay away | Graphic via Audubon South Carolina

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