Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stern about terns

State says nesting shorebirds need special protection for July 4th weekend and summer beach season

The state Department of Environmental Protection is asking for the public’s help in protecting birds that nest in coastal areas, especially during the summer beach season, the agency said in a statement.
Whether on nests or in feeding areas, piping plovers, least terns, herons and egrets "are all especially vulnerable to disturbance from kites, fireworks and unattended cats and dogs," the statement said.
If disturbed, these birds could "abandon nesting areas, leaving eggs and hatchlings to die from exposure or to predation," the statement said. People using beach areas also could "inadvertently trample piping plover and least tern eggs and young if they are not vigilant."
The DEP has erected fencing and yellow warning signs along beaches where these birds build their shallow sand nests. Similarly, the DEP has cordoned off various off-shore islands where herons and egrets congregate in nesting areas called rookeries.
"Shorebirds and wading birds need special protection throughout their April to September nesting season," Susan Frechette, Deputy Commissioner of the DEP. said in the statement. “We urge beachgoers to keep fireworks and kites, especially kites that make noise, away from beach areas. We also ask people to keep their pets leashed and to stay away from fenced areas.
The piping plover, a small, sandy-colored shorebird about the size of a robin, is a threatened species under both the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, the statement said. The small, gull-like least tern nests in colonies in the same beach habitat as piping plovers and is also classified as a state threatened species, the statement said.
Both piping plovers and least terns use only a shallow depression in the sand as a nest. The sand color of the eggs and young act as a camouflage protection from predators and makes them very hard to see on a sunny beach. When intruders approach, young piping plovers are likely to stand motionless while the adult tries to attract attention by pretending to have a broken wing or flying around the intruder. If you see this display by adult birds, move away from the area at once,” Julie Victoria, a DEP Wildlife Biologist, said, also in the statement. “Continued disturbance may cause abandonment or death of the chicks.
"Historically, piping plovers and least terns have been declining due to the loss of beach habitat to residential and recreational development," said Victoria. In Connecticut, there are approximately 30 pairs of piping plovers in 10 locations and about 100 pairs of least terns, the statement said.
Herons and egrets also are state-listed species, nesting on islands in Long Island Sound. In an effort to insure these areas are not abandoned, the DEP has completely closed Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook through the nesting season, the statement said.
Advice to help protect nesting shorebirds and wading birds:
Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season. Dogs and cats are frequent predators of piping plovers and least terns.
Don’t let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
If dogs are walked on beaches, always keep them on a leash.
If you live near a beach, do not let pets roam during the nesting season.
Do not bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, and fish scraps on a beach. They attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as skunks, raccoons, foxes, and black-backed gulls.
Do not attempt to "rescue" young birds that appear to be lost or too young to fly.
Do not attempt to remove young birds from the beach or coastal areas to care for them at home.

It is illegal to hold wildlife for rehabilitation without state or federal permits. In addition, shorebirds have a unique diet that people would find hard to duplicate, probably resulting in starvation of the young bird, the statement said. Report any violations affecting wildlife to the DEP’s 24-hour, toll-free hot line: 1-800-842-HELP.

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