Least Tern bird nests destroyed at Rutherford Beach

KPLC 7News at Six - May 21, 2020 - Pt. II

CREOLE, La. (KPLC) - One of the many migratory birds that make Louisiana coasts their temporary homes, the Least Tern birds lay their eggs in sand dunes from April through July. Rutherford Beach is the temporary home for one of the largest Least Tern colonies.

When the eggs are laid, volunteers and wildlife experts rope the area off to avoid human disturbance, but Katie Barnes, coastal stewardship manager for Audubon Louisiana explained, eggs still manage to be destroyed.

“Beach driving is an issue and other human disturbances like flying kites or loose dogs, off-leash dogs, those types of threats go into the nesting colonies and can devastate a colony," Barnes said. “It can crush eggs, the adults are thrown off their nests because they’re scared of the vehicles, the eggs cook in the sun from the parents being off too long, so the parents have to be on the eggs to regulate the temperature of the eggs.”

Nests were destroyed recently at Rutherford Beach and Barnes warns more could be destroyed with the increased traffic at the beaches over the long Memorial Day weekend.

“We fenced a half-mile on Wednesday, May 13, and by May 18, Monday, it went from hundreds of nesting Least Terns to three active nests,” Barnes said.

Least Tern birds can start over.

“If they lose their nest they can re-nest, but they can only re-nest so many times," Barnes said. "It’s usually two or three times and they have to keep those babies safe through incubation as well as through the chick phase.”

Protecting the birds, according to Barnes, is beneficial to everyone.

“The birds here are biological indicators so they actually give us a clue on the health of the ecosystem, but it also brings a lot of ecotourism," Barnes said. "It’s important to note that we’re protecting our dune systems as well, by protecting the birds that utilize those dune systems, and that’s protecting us from coastal erosion.”

Those that get caught destroying the eggs or are in the roped area, can get a fine.

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