How do Nesting Shorebirds & Sea Turtles Respond to Fireworks?
To assess the effects of fireworks displays on Sanibel’s beach-nesting shorebirds and wading birds, SCCF monitored two snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nests and a wading bird roost site on the evenings of July 3 to July 5. The snowy plover nests were monitored outside the posted protection zone with night-vision goggles. Monitors were also in place at South Seas Island Resort to watch over current sea turtle nests and ensure no nesting females were disoriented by fireworks on Captiva. No impacts to nesting or hatchling sea turtles were documented.
To assess the impacts on bird’s nests and roosts, the locations were monitored on the evening prior to, evening of, and evening after the fireworks display during the same period (9-9:30pm). One snowy plover remained on her nest incubating throughout the time period each night. The second snowy plover alternated between incubating and foraging close to the nest on all three evenings. Female snowy plovers stay on the nest for the majority of the four-week incubation period, while the males will return close to hatching and stay with the chicks until they are fledged.
Since it is so hot during the day, the females remain on the nest keeping the eggs shaded from the hot sun. In the cooler morning and evening hours, they can leave the eggs for short periods to feed themselves. The plover nests were each approximately one mile from the fireworks launch site and no apparent impacts from the fireworks were observed.
At the wading bird site, the birds behaved normally on all nights, except for the beginning and ending of the fireworks display on July Fourth. The first fireworks startled a handful of birds, causing them to flush, though they settled back down within three minutes. The loud grand finale also startled them, causing them to flush again, but they relaxed shortly after its conclusion. These behaviors were not observed on the nights with no fireworks. Overall, it appears impacts at the sites monitored by SCCF staff and volunteers were minimal.