Tern Flock Bathing, Falkner Island

The Beach

We think of birds as nesting in trees, out of reach.  But many birds and animals nest on the beach!

Common Tern & Least Tern

Common Terns and Least Terns nest on the beach directly on the sand, and sometimes in the beach grass. If you see a tern with a fish dangling from its beak, chances are there are hungry babies in the nest waiting to be fed.

Smeagull Alert:


NESTING TERNS, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER. Both eggs and baby terns are highly camouflaged and almost impossible to see. If you step on a nest you will break eggs or kill the babies.

This is why nesting terns become very upset if you enter the colony.  They will fly right at you not because they are mean but because they are trying to protect their eggs and defenseless babies.  All they are saying is “You’re too close.  Back up!”  Please do what the terns say!

Common Tern Nest and Newborn Baby Tern

Common Terns Defending Their Nesting Colony

See a Baby Tern Snuggle Under its Mother for a Nap

Morning High Tide, Horseshoe Crab Returning to the Sea, Sheffield Island

Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe Crabs also nest on the beach. At night when the tide is very high, horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay their tiny eggs in nests dug in the sand.  Then they cover up the eggs, and go back to the sea.  In the morning you may find LIVE crabs that missed the outgoing tide.

Smeagull Alert:

You Can Help!

IN THE MORNING ONLY, if you find a horseshoe crab stranded on the beach, pick up the crab by the sides of the shell – never by the tail – and place it gently in the water. That long tail cannot sting or harm you.  But horseshoe crabs are heavy and if you pick one up by the tail it could break off, and this harmless animal would die. So please pick them up only by the sides of the shell. Let them live!

Horseshoe Crabs are ancient animals, largely unchanged since the Ordovician Period, 400,000,000 years ago.

Killdeer Doing Her "Broken Wing" Display

Four Camoulaged Killdeer Eggs in Their Nest

Killdeer Doing Her "Broken Wing" Display

Four Camoulaged Killdeer Eggs in Their Nest


Killdeer nest on and near the beach just like terns.  They are named after their “K’dee” call.  Killdeer eggs, like tern eggs and nests are camouflaged and hard to see.  If killdeer fly around you and call their “K’dee” call, STOP!  You are about to step on their nests!

See a Kildeer in Flight, Calling "K'dee!"

Smeagull Says,

"Get the Facts"

Killdeer lead predators away from their nests by faking a broken wing. When  the predator follows far enough the killdeer flies away. 

Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom

Bumblebee Gathering Pollen on Cactus Flower

Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom

Bumblebee Gathering Pollen on Cactus Flower

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus is one of the distinct plants found near the shoreline in the Refuge. Prickly Pear Cactus produces beautiful big yellow flowers that bumblebees and other pollinating insects love.

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed Flower

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterflies are on of the many butterflies (including Common Buckeyes, Paper Whites, American Lady, and Yellow Sulphur) among the insects that benefit from the wildflowers in the Refuge and nearby habitat.

American Lady

Cabbage White

Clouded Sulphur

Painted Lady

Smeagull Alert:

You Can Help!

Milkweed is absolutely necessary to Monarch Butterflies because they lay their eggs only on Milkweed.  You can help monarchs by planting more milkweed where you live.  And all butterflies and other wonderful insects benefit when you plant native wildflowers.

Monarch Butterflies are one of the insects that migrate.  So do Dragonflies. Dragonflies do not bite humans! Instead, they feed on insects that DO bite us!


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