ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — If you plan on spending some time on St. Pete Beach in the next few weeks, you'll want to keep an eye out for a colony of black skimmers. More than 600 of the birds are nesting in a colony near the St. Pete Beach Access.

  • Species has Protected status in Florida
  • Colony is roped off, hundreds of chicks expected to hatch in coming weeks
  • Want to volunteer to help monitor the birds? Click HERE
  • More Pinellas County stories

The species is protected in Florida, and groups like Audubon Florida are making sure their nests are monitored and kept safe.

“They are part of our beach, they’re part of our natural resources and that’s something that we want to protect. You take a piece of that out, and it disrupts the entire ecosystem,” said Holley Short, Project Manager for Bird Monitoring and Stewardship. 

The colony is roped off, and hundreds of chicks will be hatching in the coming weeks. Dozens have already hatched. 

Short says it’s important for beach goers to give the birds space and respect them.

She offered these tips as people head to the beach to help protect the black skimmers:

  • Fill in holes along the beach, as the chicks can fall in them
  • Take everything you bring to the beach with you when you leave
  • Avoid playing near the colony or using kites.
  • Don’t bring your dogs on the beach there. They could scare the birds.
  • Pick up any plastic you see
  • Do not run through a group of birds

As Fourth of July approaches, Short says it’s also important not to use small fireworks near the nest. She says they could scare the birds, causing them to abandon their nests.

“We really need the help of the public to make sure they’re aware of their surroundings, make sure there aren’t any chicks nearby or under foot and, like I said, it’s all about giving the birds their space,” said Short.

To learn more about helping these birds, or volunteering, click here.