During spring and summer, shorebirds arrive at beaches all along the United States to raise their babies. Many of them don’t even build a nest—instead, they dig a small cup in the sand (called a scrape) and lay their eggs there. The eggs are usually light brown and speckled like the sand. And the chicks themselves tend to be light brown and speckled, too! By being camouflaged to blend in with their environment, baby birds and their parents are protected from wild predators like hawks and coyotes.
Birds nesting at the beach still face threats from people, though. In the summer, at the same time as baby birds are hatching from their eggs, people flock to the beach to swim in the ocean and rest in the sand. When beaches get too crowded, bird parents have trouble finding food for themselves and their chicks. Sometimes, people accidentally step on their nests. Dogs on the beach can chase and hurt nesting birds, too.
At Audubon, our job is to be good stewards. A steward is a person who looks after the wellbeing of others—that can mean humans, animals, or even the land. In early spring, when we notice birds returning to beaches from far-away places like the Bahamas, stewards help protect their nesting areas. Once they find the nest of a Piping Plover or Least Tern, they will install string fencing to keep people away. They also install educational signs with information about the birds that nest there and explain why the area is closed to the public. The signs help people enjoy the beach and protect birds at the same time, by doing things like keeping their dogs on leash, cleaning up their trash, and giving the birds the space they need.
In this activity, kids create their own beach-nesting bird signs. You can share them online with the hashtag #ShareTheShore and, of course, add them to your child's home art gallery. You can even hang them on your window so people walking by outside can learn more.
Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
Photos of shorebirds (or the links below)
- There are certain birds that need our protection more than others, and unfortunately many shorebird and seabird species are considered threatened, endangered, or at-risk. Here are a few that need extra help. Follow the links to learn about them in Audubon's online Field Guide.
- Pick your favorite of these, or a species that nests on a beach near you, and draw it on a piece of paper. Look for photos of its chicks and eggs and add those to your drawing too. Or if you prefer, you can print these coloring sheets from Audubon Connecticut’s #ShareTheShore program.
- Now it’s time to draw the beach. No bird can survive without a safe home! Add habitat, like sand, water, or beach plants. You can even show some examples of disturbances—things that frighten or cause trouble for these birds while they are nesting. An off-leash dog or trash on a beach can be dangerous for these birds.
- Add a message that you think will encourage others to help keep nesting birds safe. By bringing attention to the birds and the importance of the fencing, more beachgoers will learn how to have fun responsibly. Popular ones include:
Share the Love, Share the Shore
Give Birds Space to Nest and Rest
Birds are nesting here!
Please keep dogs on a leash
Respect the nest!
- Share your shorebird sign with family and friends. Send a photo of your finished drawing to firstname.lastname@example.org and post it on Twitter using the hashtags #kidsart and #sharetheshore and tag @audubonsociety. If you tag Audubon Connecticut they may share it with their network too (@AudubonCT on Facebook, @AudubonConnecticut on Instagram, @Audubon_CT on Twitter).
This activity adapted from an activity from Audubon Connecticut's Share the Love, #ShareTheShore campaign (also available through Audubon New York). Click through to learn more and get more involved, including templates for how to write a letter to the editor of your local paper about the importance of sharing the shore.