Wednesday, December 1, 2021

PLEASE Do Not Feed the Birds on the Beach

Photo by Maria Lamb | Marco Island Ordinance states that “feeding any wildlife is prohibited in the City.” Signage is at the entrance to South Beach boardwalk.

Many visitors to our beaches bring their own cache of snacks with plenty to go around, so what’s the harm of sharing food with the seagulls and crows? They are always lurking around looking for handouts. Chances are when you are at the beach with food, there is a curious and ever-ready gull or crow intently watching you. 

Besides, the kids will enjoy the “sharing” experience with the birds and what a great photo opportunity!

We’ve all done it at one point or another. Take the kids to the park to feed the ducks! Or time to get rid of the bag of stale bread or chips! Take it to the beach and feed the birds and watch the crows and gulls fight over each morsel.

Brittany Piersma of the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) is a Winter Shorebird Steward for Marco Island. She is on Marco’s beach most mornings documenting the bird species and their numbers. 

She rescued two laughing gulls from Marco Island looking very emaciated. Brittany took them to the Von Arx Wildlife Clinic, and she was concerned that they were suffering from malnutrition. Lots of food scraps for the birds, but they are starving to death.

Paul Reisinger of Regency Watersports also expressed concern and would like to see a change in the legality of feeding birds on the beach. “It is not good in many ways feeding human food” and he thought it was a practice that was only frowned upon. He continued as he said, “If feeding the birds on the beach is illegal, I could then spread the word so people will know NOT to do it, and if they do not listen, there are consequences.”

Marco Island’s Ordinance 19-01 Section 18-145 (7) states that “feeding any wildlife is prohibited in the City, except for the use of bird feeders at least 300 feet from any designated conservation area.” 

There are also penalties for “Any person who is found to have violated any provision of this article such as a first offense—minimum of $150 not to exceed $500 for each offense.” Most often, however, a friendly reminder to the offender will solve the issue.

Submitted Photo | Do Not Feed The Birds. Human food is not good for them.

Bird experts have stated that giving bread and snack foods to birds can leave them malnourished. Bread products are high in calories but low in nutrition value that wild birds need. The birds may enjoy the little pieces of bread or chips feeling full, but as a result, the birds may skip foraging for their natural foods.

Also, by feeding the birds on the beach, humans are actually teaching them to associate food with humans. Feeding birds might also lead them to trust people. We’ve all seen seagulls or crows on the beach swarm and grab food out of someone’s hand. 

Birds become bold and pesky and this can also be very scary to small children. Birds have sharp beaks and may draw blood from people’s hands.

In reality, feeding birds on the beach is doing them more harm than good. The bread products we are feeding them are low in protein and other essential nutrients and minerals—such as calcium and phosphorous—and may result in a variety of disorders in birds. 

According to bird experts, every molting bird needs extra protein to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. They also need proper nutrition to provide healthy coloration to best attract a mate. Otherwise, it may be a difficult winter and a lonely spring.

Feeding birds on the beach is a bad idea and most residents know that. However, the bored tourist looking for avian entertainment—feeding the birds is NOT a laughing matter—even for a Gull!

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