Snapshots of adults, eggs and chicks of four protected species. From left, American oystercatcher, Wilson’s plover, least tern and black skimmer.

As you plan your spring break and summer vacations to Georgia’s coast, remember that your family won’t be the only ones enjoying the beach.  As the weather warms up, many coastal areas of Georgia will provide prime nesting sites for a variety of protected birds, such as American oystercatchers, Wilson’s plovers and least terns.

Beach-nesting birds nest above the high-tide line on wide, terraced beach flats or in the edge of dunes. From April thru July, birds lay eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand, which can be hard to spot. After hatching, chicks also stay well hidden on the beach or in the grass. Disturbance by humans or pets can cause adult birds to abandon nests and chicks, exposing them to extreme heat and predators.

What are some things you can do when visiting a Georgia beach?

  • Stay in high-traffic areas; birds are less likely to nest where crowds gather
  • Walk below the high-tide line or on wet-sand beaches.
  • Avoid posted nesting sites.
  • Observe beach birds only from a distance. Back away from any nesting birds you accidentally disturb. (Adults frightened from a nest will often call loudly and exhibit distraction displays, such as dragging one wing as if it’s broken.)
  • Leave dogs at home or keep them on a leash when visiting a beach where they’re allowed. (Owners who let their dogs chase shorebirds can be fined for harassing federally protected species.)
  • Keep house cats indoors, and don’t feed feral cats.

Enjoy this video highlighting the coastal birds of Georgia, and view photos of Georgia’s birds on the Wildlife Resources Division Flickr page!