Black Skimmers are one of many shorebird species that form breeding colonies & lay their eggs in small scrapes directly on dunes & beaches. Their survival strategy is large numbers for more lookout eyes, effective egg camouflage, & short incubation\fledgling times to minimize the open exposures.
This strategy worked well until primary competition became us. Initial negative impact of bird\human conflict was, for the most
part, unintentional. There was some loss to hunting & egg gathering, but most loss was a consequence of increased beach development & recreational use. And the rats that always come along with us.
Overtime, the number of birds lost became apparent & hard to ignore. In 2019 a multi sponsored report documented 37% of shorebirds had disappeared since 1970. 87% of Black Skimmers disappeared. It is estimated that there are only 3,000 individuals remaining.
Because birds play a critical role in beach ecosystems, a loss of this magnitude causes an imbalance of beach & coastal natural history, including a complete collapse of some native wildlife leaving room for intrusion bad back actors. Plus, what is a beach without squawking bird life.
Conservation groups & state departments of natural resources have become more active in protecting nesting areas with fencing, signage, & patrols.
This is where a disturbing trait surfaces - crassly ignoring public rules because they interfere with our individual 'right' - or our pet's - to enjoy ourselves as we damn well please. And more disturbing to me is increasing intentional destruction of the sites in order to 'reopen' the beach.
A notorious case was using fireworks to vandalize a Black Skimmer nesting site on St Pete beach in 2021. 1 whole breeding season of this 1 of the 3 dozen remaining nesting colonies was lost just so a few 'special' people could use the beach undeterred by birds.
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