Fireworks on Gulf Beaches Harm Nesting Shorebirds and Sea Turtles

June 27, 2024 at 3:17 p.m.

Fireworks are a favorite part of July 4th celebrations, but not everyone is thrilled by them. Nesting shorebirds and sea turtles are two examples of wildlife that suffer as the result of fireworks being shot off on the beaches along the Gulf. Fireworks are bright, loud and deadly to nesting shorebirds, if they are displayed too close to a colony nesting on the beach. Fireworks are prohibited at Stump Pass Beach State Park, and at all Florida State Parks. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, adult Least Terns completely abandoned a nesting site that was a football field away from a fireworks display. Their report notes that fireworks within three quarters of a mile also caused birds distress and they temporarily abandoned eggs and chicks. When the adults are frightened away, the eggs in their nest or their tiny chicks can easily be eaten by gulls, raccoons, fish crows or other predators. Sea turtles, which are nesting on the beaches now, are interrupted in their nesting efforts and may be stressed by the lights and the noise. Hatchlings may get disoriented. The beach is a bad place for fireworks, which stress wildlife and create pollution for marine creatures. Two years ago, Coastal Wildlife Club turtle patrol volunteers found a disoriented adult loggerhead on the landward side of a house. She had crawled from the beach through a yard and into the street several houses away, likely disoriented by the lights and noise of fireworks. Keeping the beach dark will go a long way in preventing incidents like this. You can help protect wildlife and still enjoy fireworks by watching public, professionally executed displays such as Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary’s show over Middle Beach. You also eliminate the risk of injury and fires caused by personal fireworks. This photo shows how much the night is lit up when fireworks are shot off.