Best Practices for Beach Nesting Birds

Please give beach-nesting birds 150 feet of space

That equals three full-sized school busses!

Best Practices for Protecting Beach-Nesting Birds

Please respect fencing installed to protect beach nesting birds

Piping plover and American oystercatcher chicks are hatching on beaches around Martha’s Vineyard. The beach is their home, which means they are perfectly adapted for life there while we humans need sunscreen, water, and food to survive on the beach. We want them to survive and thrive!

Follow these steps to help us keep chicks and eggs safe while sharing the shore:

  • While on the beach, please leash your dog and only bring them to beaches where they are permitted. Please keep your dog away from posted nesting areas. All dogs frighten these ground-nesting birds, causing them to leave their chicks and eggs. Running dogs and people are especially frightening for them. 
  • When approaching symbolic fencing please give the area a lot of space. We can’t always keep fencing where we want it due to our strong tides and wave action, which means some birds nest close to the edge of the fencing.
  • Please do not stand or sit close to posted nesting areas. Close approaches to the nesting areas can make some nervous parents leave their eggs or chicks, which exposes them to predation and the weather. Enjoy the birds from a distance. 
  • After hatching, it takes upwards of to 26 days for these chicks to be able to fly. Due to their diminutive size, it is critical to ensure they have safe places to feed and rest away from predators and the trampling feet of humans.

Please remember to respect wildlife signage. These birds are federally protected. Beachgoers are required by law to keep a distance of 50 meters (150 feet) from all beach-nesting birds like piping plovers, terns, American oystercatchers and black skimmers.

BiodiversityWorks works with private landowners, beach associations, and land trusts to monitor and protect nesting Piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus), Least terns (Sterna antillarum), Common terns (Sterna hirundo), Roseate terns (Sterna dougallii), and Black skimmers (Rhyncops niger). We collaborate with other conservation organizations on Martha’s Vineyard to ensure that all beaches and small islands with suitable nesting habitat are monitored and protected along the island’s 124 miles of shoreline.

Each spring and summer we protect nesting areas with symbolic fencing (posts and rope) so that people and birds can share the shore safely. We walk many miles of beach locating nesting pairs, censusing their numbers, and collecting data on nest and chick survival. We also work to reduce predation pressure by superabundant predators (primarily American crows and striped skunks) at beaches where they eat more than 60% of eggs laid or chicks hatched. Besides the joy of seeing chicks hatch and fledge, sharing our passion for beach-nesting birds is a favorite part of our work. At the bottom of this page you will find a map of the beaches were we work and a summary of the birds we protected and their productivity from 2011 – 2022.

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