Three species of hawksbill birds at Amelia Island State Park

Those who enter Amelia Island State Park on this northeast Florida barrier island, see a large brown sign as they enter the park (picture below). It reminds the public that this state park is a seasonally sensitive bird nesting area and shows the number of endangered beach-nesting baby birds that have fledged during the 2022 breeding season (now over). .

Amelia Island State Park 2022 Beach Nesting Bird Count

The shore of Amelia Island State Park (AISP) extends along the Nassau Strait and the Atlantic Ocean. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)designated AISP as “Critical Wildlife Area” (CWA), as are the Nassau Strait Islands.

Wilson's Plover, Amelia Island, Florida
Wilson’s Plover, Amelia Island, Florida
During nesting season, signs are posted at Amelia Island State Park
Do not hunt birds resting on the beach

Educating beachgoers and considering all shorebirds is important for their long-term survival, not just during beach nesting season, but throughout the year. Unfortunately, beach visitors – children and adults alike – disturb the roosting birds on the beaches here at the Amelia Island Seashore and elsewhere around Florida and beaches around the world.

In addition to resting, some species of birds search for food along the shore. Many people don’t realize that human disturbance of seabirds and shorebirds on the beach – by sending birds soaring – is detrimental to their survival.

In the Sunshine State, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)has four bird species listed as “Birds nesting on the beach in peril in Florida”:

  1. American Oystercatcher
  2. snowy plover
  3. lesser tern
  4. black skimmer

From the list above, those who frequent the Amelia Island waterfront, even on cold winter days, are probably the most familiar with black skimmers. With their unusual beak and black and white plumage, this is not a bird that goes unnoticed. As described by the FWC, “The lower part of the beak is longer than the top, which is important because they use their beak to scour the top of the water to catch fish, for which they are aptly named.”

Black Skimmers at Fernandina's Main Beach in winter.  Photo by Amelia Island Living magazine.
Black Skimmers, Fernandina’s main beach in winter

Black skimmers, a seabird, spend the winter months resting along the shoreline of Amelia Island. Outraged Amelia Island State Parkthey are often seen congregating around the island’s popular Main Beach Park to Fernandina and Fort Clinch State Park on the beach near the pier.

‘Resting’ black skimmers take flight on Fernandina’s main beach

While Black Skimmers are often seen here on the beach, by comparison it would be unusual to spot an American Oystercatcher along the Amelia Island coastline. (The last we saw was way back in 2011 at the north end of Amelia Island, shown below).

Bird watchers are more likely to spot an Oystercatcher on nearby barrier islands – Cumberland Island, Georgia (a largely wild island that became a National Seashore in 1972), and a little to the south, Little Talbot Island (a Florida state park).

Want to help beach birds? Become a bird keeper

Those interested in volunteering to help birds at the beach can participate in the “Bird Steward” programs that currently exist throughout the state of Florida. Here in Northeast Florida, those interested in learning more about becoming a “Bird Steward” in any of the following counties – Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler – can send a Email Audubon’s Chris.Farrell @audubon.org .

Also learn a lot more about Florida’s beach birds at Florida Shorebird Alliance website.

During the summer of 2022, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved new “Species Conservation Measures and Permit Guidelines” for these four species of beach-nesting birds – American Oystercatcher, Snowy Plover, Pygmy Tern and Black Skimmer. The four species of beach-nesting birds listed by the state of Florida are included in a set of guidelines, which is available at MyFWC.com/speciesguidelines. The new approved guidelines will come into effect in September 2023. The interim period will be used to recruit and train new Authorized monitors for birds nesting on the beach at riskdevelop awareness and training products and sensitize relevant stakeholders.

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