We recently went to the beach to watch the Least Terns courting. The male brings a fish to the female. If all goes well, they consummate the relationship and start a family. As you can see in the video below, sometimes the male is too busy watching out for other things to take advantage of a receptive female. Sometimes, she’s not interested.
When things go well, they will dig a nest. One of the birds makes a few scrapes in the sand and that’s the nest!
A lot needs to go well to successfully raise a chick. Weather must cooperate. The nest can’t be predated. If the birds are flushed from the nest too often, the eggs can bake in the sun. Predators will flush the birds but people activity to close to the nests and especially dogs are a problem. It doesn’t matter if the dogs are well behaved. The birds can’t distinguish between a well-behaved dog and a coyote.
On this particular part of the beach, dogs are not allowed. This county has extensive beaches that are dog friendly. For some reason, people like to walk their dogs right by this nesting colony.
While I was there taking pictures, a guy and his children were walking two dogs. I gently reminded him that dogs were not allowed. He said he knew but he was following the spirit of the law by not walking his dog next to the rope circling the main part of the colony.
Personally, I don’t know why people can’t walk their dogs on the miles of dog friendly beaches and feel compelled to walk them along the hundred yards of endangered nesting bird colony where dogs are not allowed.
There are not many beaches left in Florida where birds can nest. Lots of beaches are lined with condos. The birds have been going to rooftops of buildings to nest. This is not ideal because it sometimes the roofs can get too hot and cooks the eggs or chicks and bad weather can cause the chicks to fall off the roof.
The birds just need a little bit of space on the beach for a few months so they can have a fighting chance of raising the next generation.