Rare and declining waterbirds depend on Florida’s beaches to nest and raise young during this time of year.

With millions expected to visit Florida during Independence Day, Audubon asked beachgoers and boaters to respect birds and their habitat.

“Being on the water is an iconic Florida pastime, and millions are expected to flock to Florida’s beaches and waterways this holiday,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida's executive director. “Florida’s threatened waterbirds are trying to raise their eggs and chicks on our islands and beaches right now. At this vulnerable time, we’re asking Floridians and visitors to ‘share the shores’ with these babies by respecting areas posted for their protection.”

Disturbances like unofficial fireworks may cause parent birds to flush from nests, leaving chicks and eggs exposed. The hot Florida sun can cook eggs and chicks to death, and predators can devastate nesting colonies without the protection of moms and dads.

"Fireworks near nesting areas can terrify the birds and puts the lives of the fluffy chicks and eggs at risk. They also litter our beaches and waterways with entangling debris," said Dr. Marianne Korosy, Audubon Florida’s director of bird conservation. "By attending official displays and following these easy tips, birds and people can enjoy Florida’s beaches together."

Many nesting sites are well-marked on Florida beaches to help protect them from disturbance, and a single disturbance can destroy an entire colony. Audubon urges beachgoers and boaters to follow these simple tips to safely enjoy our beaches and share the shores with birds:

• Respect posted areas, even if you don't see birds inside them.

• Give colony islands some room when fishing.

• Dispose of trash, fishing line, and tackle appropriately.

• Avoid disturbing birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.

• Keep dogs away from posted areas. Even on a leash, dogs are perceived as predators.

• Do not feed birds or wildlife.

• Leave the fireworks at home and attend an official display instead.

• Beach-nesting birds sometimes nest outside of posted areas. If you notice birds circling noisily over your head, you may be near a nesting colony. Please give them some space.

Beachgoers may see volunteer "bird stewards" chaperone nesting bird colonies on many Florida beaches. These stewards help educate beachgoers about nesting colonies while reminding them not to enter protected areas. For more information or to volunteer, email FLConservation@audubon.org.