It’s nesting season for sea turtles, waterbirds

People can help endangered wildlife survive

There’s one sure sign of spring in South Florida that has nothing to do with budding flowers.

From now through Oct. 31, thousands of sea turtles, shorebirds and seabirds nest on Florida’s southeast and Gulf coast beaches where they frequently encounter people, too often to their detriment.

In Broward three female turtle species – leatherback, green and loggerhead — journey hundreds, or even thousands of miles, back to the beaches where they were hatched decades earlier to mate and make their own nests. All sea turtle species are either threatened or endangered.

In 2021, a total of 3,099 nests were documented in Broward: 2,548 loggerhead, 463 green and 86 leatherback, according to Nova Southeastern University [NSU] which oversees the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, to help the reptiles survive a vexing urban landscape with its light pollution and traffic.

Beachside residents and visitors can help by adopting “turtle-friendly” behavior, scientists say.

Examples include installing shielded, amber exterior lighting on beachfront properties; closing curtains or turning off interior lights after sunset; refraining from using cell phones and flashlights on the beach, and not disturbing nests or nesting female turtles,” said Stephanie Kedzuf, an environmental project coordinator with Broward County’s Natural Resources Division, in a prepared statement.

“Every little bit helps, and we want to ensure we do whatever we can to help the turtles now and in the future,” she said.

Over the next months, NSU researchers and volunteers will canvas Broward’s 24 miles of beachfront looking for nests, which they section off with tape and signage so the eggs can mature and safely hatch.

Come July, nighttime sea turtle hatchling and release programs allow people to observe the turtles without disturbing them. Spots fill up quickly.

Biologists say that some of the most important things people can do to help nesting sea turtles and waterbirds are to give them space, minimize disturbances and keep beaches clean and dark.

Many shorebird and seabird species nest directly on beaches across the state where their eggs and chicks are well camouflaged in the sand. Colonies of wading birds, such as herons, will typically nest on mangrove islands off the coast.

Keeping wildlife safe

Here’s recommendations by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC): l  Keep a distance. Getting 50 feet or less to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete nesting. It is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles and their nests, eggs and hatchlings. Not keeping enough space from nesting shorebirds, seabirds and wading birds can cause them to flee their breeding sites, leaving vulnerable eggs and chicks exposed to the elements and predators. Egg temperatures can rise to lethal levels after just a few minutes of direct sun exposure.

• Keep at least 300 feet from nesting birds.

• Shorebirds and seabirds nest in shallow scrapes in the sand and their eggs and chicks are well-camouflaged, making them vulnerable to being stepped on unless people look out for them and avoid walking though flocks of birds.

• Trash and other obstacles can prevent sea turtles from nesting as they crawl from the water, and sea turtle hatchlings from reaching the water once they emerge from their nests.

• Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, that can prey on sea turtle hatchlings, shorebird eggs and chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle sea turtles, birds and other wildlife, so it’s important to remove trash, fill in human-made holes in the sand and pack up beach toys and furniture from the beach before sunset.

• Fishing line can be deadly to sea turtles, waterbirds and other wildlife, so be sure to dispose of it properly.

• Any lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean and toward street traffic, so it helps to avoid using flashlights or cellphones on the beach at night.
Beachfront residents should turn off lights or close curtains after dark to avoid disturbing turtles as they come ashore, and disorient hatchlings emerging from their nests.

Websites, phone numbers to know

• Nesting sea turtles: or see the FWC’s “Be a Beach Hero” brochure.

• Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or call the Sea Turtle Emergency Line: 954-328-0580.

• Waterbirds: go to and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure.

• To find a monofilament recycling station near you, visit

Florida Shorebird Alliance: FLShorebirdAlliance. org to learn more about how to participate in shorebird and seabird conservation efforts.