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Fireworks Are Harmful to Threatened Wildlife

Black skimmer feeding chicks JEAN HALL.jpg
Jean Hall / Courtesy Audubon Florida
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A black skimmer feeding its chicks. The black skimmer is considered a threatened species in Florida. Fireworks scare parents away from taking care of their young, leaving the young unable to survive.

This holiday weekend, many people will want to celebrate at the beach with fireworks. However, fireworks can pose major problems or even death for threatened species of birds and turtles.

This holiday weekend, many people will want to celebrate at the beach with fireworks. However, fireworks can pose major problems or even death for threatened species of birds and turtles.

The black skimmer, the least tern, and the snowy plover are all in the midst of their beach nesting season. Some are still sitting on their eggs, others are taking care of chicks. They are all threatened species in Florida. For many of the reasons humans love fireworks like the bursts of color and loud noise, these birds do not. In fact, they panic.

"When they panic, they tend to protect the adults and protect themselves first. So they'll leave their nest and that'll kind of scatter the chicks. Then it leaves eggs and those chicks exposed to predators and as well as the heat, which puts the chicks and the eggs in danger. This all spells disaster for them," said Audubon Florida’s Rochelle Streker.

She’s the nonprofit’s Southwest Florida shorebird manager. Streker said it’s even possible the birds could be scared to death. More worrisome is that as these birds nest in big groups, or colonies, so shooting off fireworks near their nests can scare away hundreds of birds. Chicks that are just learning to fly can get panicked and hurt themselves because they don’t know how to handle the stress and are unable to fly. Once the birds are frightened, there is a chance the birds are so scared, they never return to those nests.

"It really ups the chances of them just abandoning that nest altogether and giving up on raising chicks, which, you know, it's not great for the population as a whole," said Streker.

The other issue is that the debris the fireworks leave behind stays on the beach and then this plastic waste can be eaten by birds, sea turtles and other marine mammals. The plastic clogs up their digestive systems and can lead to death.

"I don't think with fireworks, people think often about the debris, and the trash that's left behind," Streker said.

Streker recommends people who want to enjoy fireworks do so at a professional fireworks display, rather than deploying their own, especially on the beach.