VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Threatened shorebirds have been hatching throughout southeast Volusia County over the past week ahead of what is expected to be a busy Fourth of July weekend in Central Florida, according to county officials.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines threatened species as animals that are “likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
Birdwatchers have seen several least tern and Wilson’s plover chicks in Smyrna Dunes Park and Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park in New Smyrna Beach, as well as on Disappearing Island — a popular boaters’ destination near Ponce Inlet, county officials said.
Volusia County also reported that at least six American oystercatcher chicks hatched on the islands around the Port Orange Causeway.
County officials said the chicks will remain flightless for about three weeks before they’re able to fly on their own.
While Volusia County has taken steps to keep beaches safer over the holiday weekend, environmental concerns still remain surrounding the safety and health of the hatchlings, which are protected by state and federal laws.
Reports show the county’s Environmental Management Division posted a barrier and “Do Not Enter” signs on Disappearing Island and in Smyrna Dunes Park to ward off people and pets from the posted areas. Signs have also been posted at Bethune Beach.
County officials stated people and animals are able to destroy nesting colonies easily if they’re not careful, putting these birds at greater risk. In addition, adult birds may fly off if frightened, leaving eggs exposed to both predators and prolonged sun exposure.
“If you see people entering the posted area or letting dogs run off-leash in the vicinity of the posted area, gently let them know their actions may harm the birds and that the eggs and small chicks are camouflaged and difficult to see,” said Protected Species Manager Jennifer Winters. “With the holiday weekend, we expect that people will be using fireworks, which can cause the birds to abandon nests and leave eggs or chicks unprotected. Please leave fireworks at home and do not use them on the beaches or islands.”
Fireworks are prohibited on Volusia County beaches.
Volusia County is asking anyone who witnesses these birds being disturbed or finds unposted nests to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (888) 404-3922.
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