Gulf of Mexico
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FL - Increase in beachgoers forcing coastal birds to move their homes

PINELLAS,Fla. - This time of year, we start to see more and more visitors to our piece of paradise. As more people head to the beach, Audubon Florida, a conservation nonprofit, says the crowds are forcing coastal birds who nest at the beach to find other places to nest and to raise their babies.

Audubon Florida Shorebird Program Manager Holley Short said the birds are trying to find a quiet place where they feel safe, and they see beachgoers as a threat. She said they’re flocking to gravel rooftops to avoid disturbances.

"As more and more people come to the beach, whether to live here or on vacation, the birds that need this area to breed and raise their chicks are just losing more habitat and even as they take to these alternative rooftop sites, they’re losing that habitat as well as roofs are being replaced, so they’re very much at risk of a population decline when they don’t have that habitat," Short said.

Short said they’ve seen this migration over the past few decades, but more and more sea and shorebirds have moved over the past few years. So many that Audubon created a rooftop biologist role in 2017.

She travels to more than 100 buildings across the Tampa Bay Area and works with property managers and business owners to help minimize disturbances to the birds on the rooftops, like rooftop repairs and HVAC repairs.

"Believe it or not, these gravel rooftops mimic the open sandy or shelly beaches that these birds need to nest and raise their chicks, so to them, it looks very similar, but it definitely has its own challenges," Short said.

Challenges like the fact that their nests can flood easier, she said. Short said they’re also a sitting target for predators on the rooftops, and eggs and chicks can fall off the edges of the roofs, ruining their nesting season.

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