Beware of baby birds on the beach! That’s the message from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this summer.
The busy summer beach season also happens to be nesting season for a threatened species along the Connecticut shoreline.
Several types of shorebirds and wading birds nest and feed along Connecticut beaches, and their nests are often damaged or destroyed by unaware beach-goers.
Several species, including piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers, herons, and egrets, are particularly vulnerable. DEEP blocked off areas the birds are known to nest and posted signage to warn visitors to be on the lookout.
Piping plovers and least terns are both threatened species that nest along the shoreline from April through September. The US Fish and Wildlife Service describes plover chicks as sand-colored cotton balls with legs. The eggs and young are camouflaged to protect from predators, which makes them hard to spot.
Last year at least one piping plover chick was killed by an unleashed dog on the beach, and a nest was trampled by people walking through a blocked off area.
Even if you disturb a nest unintentionally and put it back, adult birds may abandon the site, leaving eggs and hatchlings to die.
DEEP completely closed Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook to the public this summer, hoping to protect the birds and keep them off the endangered list.
The agency has also blocked off some areas and posted signs along the shore, including at Walnut Beach in Milford, to remind residents to be alert. They also stress how important it is to keep dogs leashed in areas the birds inhabit.
DEEP also asks beach-goers to pick up trash or fish scraps that could attract predators to the area.
Finally – as the chicks hatch and begin to roam, DEEP asks visitors to keep an eye out to avoid stepping on them.