The hurricanes and storms of 2004 & 2005 changed the barrier islands of Gulf Islands National Seashore. While most would think hurricanes are purely destructive, this is not so. Shorebirds that nest in our area, such as least terns and black skimmers prefer open flat beach areas.

Camouflaged Snowy plover nest in the middle of broken shells and rocks.
Snowy plover nest.

Least terns arrive each year in April and begin to nest a short time later. Their nests are simple scrapes in the sand. The eggs are well camouflaged. Black skimmers arrive a short time later. Their nests and eggs are larger than the least terns.

Snowy plover with a broken wing display.
Snowy plover with a broken wing display.

These birds become disturbed by humans in their nesting areas and use different strategies to defend their nests. Dive bombing, scurrying back and forth, and feigning a broken wing means you are too close to their nests or chicks. Eggs and chicks are well camouflaged and you may not be able to see them. Eggs left exposed to the elements will not hatch and young chicks need the shelter of their parents to protect them from the hot sun.

Least tern sheltering chick under her.
Least tern with chick.

Visitors are encouraged to leave areas if they find themselves being dive bombed by birds or notice birds acting oddly. While most areas are posted with closure signs, some are not. Please leave the area by back-tracking along the same path you entered by. You can help make the nesting season successful!

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Mailing Address:

1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563


(850) 934-2600

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