Coastal Bird Solutions

Our coastal bird solutions combine physical protection, monitoring, on-the-ground educational activities, and communication initiatives.

Cameron-Parish, LA sign, Kacy Ray. coastal bird solutions

Sign to advise beachgoers to avoid nesting areas in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Photo: Kacy Ray

Protecting and Monitoring Birds

The name of the game is habitat. It’s what all birds need to survive, and at the beach, habitat is at a premium. That’s why protecting and monitoring as much beach-nesting bird habitat as we can is so important.

We physically protect approximately 750 acres of crucial nesting habitat and monitor about 4,700 acres. That means each breeding season, we’re keeping an eye on more than 1,800 breeding pairs of our Fab 4 species and over 1,200 nests across four states!

To accomplish this, field biologists and trained volunteers post signs and temporary fencing around key nesting and foraging sites. We also provide public education to beach-goers; conduct surveys to monitor breeding success from March through early September; and track numbers and distribution of migrating and wintering birds at the following locations:

Least Tern on nest, Michael Stubblefield. coastal bird solutions

Least Tern nesting, © Michael Stubblefield

Florida: We work with Eckerd College and local partners to monitor Black Skimmer, Least Tern, and Wilson’s Plover nesting sites in Pinellas County—the most densely populated county in Florida—including at Fort DeSoto, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island Beach, and Sunset Beach. Our monitoring data is provided to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which coordinates statewide efforts to restore bird populations.

Black Skimmer, Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock. coastal bird solutions

Black Skimmer at nest, Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock

Louisiana: With Audubon Louisiana and local partners, we focus on Black Skimmer, Least Tern, and Wilson Plover nesting sites in Jefferson and Cameron Parishes. One important site is Grand Isle, Jefferson Parish, the only inhabited barrier island in the state and a top recreational beach and fishing destination.

Similarly, Cameron Parish in western Louisiana has some of the largest expanse of undeveloped and publicly accessible beach with good fishing, making it very popular with both birds and people. Here, we work at three vital sites for beach-nesting birds.

Wilson's Plover, Laura Romin and Larry Dalton/Alamy. coastal bird solutions

Wilson's Plover on nest, Laura Romin and Larry Dalton/Alamy

Alabama: We work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, focusing primarily on conservation and monitoring actions for Snowy Plovers and Least Terns. This refuge’s beaches are one of the few places along the Alabama coastline with undeveloped beachfront, making it an important habitat for breeding, migrating, and wintering birds.

Snowy Plover, Kacy Ray. coastal bird solutions

Snowy Plover nesting, Kacy Ray

Texas: ABC and local partners focus on the protection and monitoring of breeding Black Skimmers, Least Terns, and Wilson’s and Snowy Plovers, as well as migrating and wintering Piping Plovers. On the more populated upper coasts of Texas, near Houston and Galveston, we work at Bolivar Flats and East Beach partnering with Houston Audubon and the Galveston Park Board of Trustees to carry out important conservation activities for the birds.

Further southwest of Galveston, we work closely with Gulf Coast Bird Observatory (GCBO) and Dow Chemical Plant to monitor a large Black Skimmer colony that uses an old parking lot to nest. ABC and GCBO also partner with the City of Freeport and the Lower Colorado River Authority to protect sensitive dune and back-bay habitats at Bryan Beach and Matagorda Nature Park to promote successful nesting and protect foraging habitat for resting, migrating, and wintering birds.

On the Central Coast, we work with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program to conduct bird population monitoring at Mollie Beattie Habitat Community, Mustang Island State Park (including the Facey Tract), and Port Aransas/Charlie’s Pasture. These back-bay sites contain an important mosaic of habitat, including large expanses of sand and algal flats, as well as small, dry, vegetated dunes. The sites are also important because little to no breeding can occur on the beachfront in this area, where people drive vehicles.

Red Knots, Alberto Campos/AQUASIS. coastal bird solutions

Red Knots on wintering grounds. Photo: Alberto Campos/AQUASIS

Laguna Madre, Mexico: We are working with Pronatura Noreste to improve habitat for nesting Wilson’s Plovers and critical wintering habitat for other species of conservation concern, such as Long-billed Curlews, Red Knots, American Oystercatchers, and Piping Plovers. This includes reforestation and restoration of mangroves on key nesting and roosting islands; construction of artificial erosion control barriers; and establishing a conservation agreement for the protection and management of 12,350 acres on Rancho El Gigante in central Laguna Madre, which contains 148 acres of freshwater wetlands important to Redheads and other ducks. We’ll monitor the response of targeted species to our conservation actions annually.

Kristen Vale at the Bay Day Festival, Texas. Coastal bird solutions

Kristen Vale working at Galveston's Bay Day Festival

Involving People in Coastal Bird Conservation

When people understand what’s at stake, and how easy it is to make a difference, we find that they’re willing to help beach-nesting birds. Our efforts have reached more than 31,000 people since 2011 through face-to-face nest site stewardship and community events, including:

  • Our “Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away” campaign, which educates and encourages recreationists to give birds nesting on islands and beaches their space
  • School projects, like the science class bird curriculum and kids’ art signs developed for Gulf Shores, Alabama. (For example, we worked with Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and a 7th grade science classes at Gulf Shores Middle School to develop signs for use in protecting the imperiled Snowy Plover at the refuge.)
  • Beach clean-ups
  • Earth Day and other celebrations like the Galveston Bay Foundation’s annual Bay Day Festival where the Houston Texans mascot, Toro, made a star appearance
  • Avoid posted nesting areas on beaches and islands. As the saying goes, “Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away!”
  • Keep children and pets away from nesting areas. Keep dogs on leashes so they don’t roam freely in nesting areas.
  • Dispose of fishing tackle properly. Birds become entangled in it and lose legs or die.
  • Move away from nesting birds if they increase vocalization, fly off their nests, or dive bomb your head (some may even poop on you, so watch out!). These are all signs that your activity is disturbing them.

Via media outreach, we’ve reached far more: since 2014, more than 300,000 through social media and 1.5 million or more through a pilot media campaign in Texas.