Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Taking the family to a Georgia beach? Please be ready to share it with families of a different feather – beach-nesting birds.
Some coastal areas popular in late spring and early summer double as important nesting habitat for protected birds such as American oystercatchers, Wilson’s plovers and least terns. Examples include Little Tybee Island, Pelican Spit off Sea Island, Cumberland Island and the southern end of Jekyll Island.
Beach-nesting birds nest above the high-tide line on wide, terraced beach flats or in the edge of dunes. In Georgia, the birds lay eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand from April through July. After hatching, chicks hide on the beach or in the grass. Chicks and eggs can be difficult to see. Disturbance by humans or pets can cause adult birds to abandon nests and chicks, exposing them to extreme heat and predators.
Migrating seabirds and shorebirds face similar threats. Georgia beaches provide vital stopover sites for species such as red knots. Red knots flushed from feeding might not gain the weight needed to survive their more than 9,000-mile migration from the Arctic to South America.
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 about Georgia's coastal birds. Below are snapshots of adults, eggs and chicks of four protected species, from left, American oystercatcher, Wilson’s plover, least tern and black skimmer.