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Researchers are trying to teach residents to respect Long Island beach spaces occupied by shore birds

Researchers teaching humans to respect shore birds' beach space
Researchers teaching humans to respect shore birds' beach space 02:17

LONG ISLAND -- Two Long Island beaches are part of a national study into how human behavior can help endangered shore birds.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday, our beaches are filled with threatened birds that thrive when given room to nest and rest.

Lido Beach may look somewhat empty, but it's actually filled with fragile bird life that is breeding.

Long Island ocean beaches are as much a people playground as they are a wildlife preserve.

"It's an entire ecosystem that we are protecting, but also how to balance that with recreation and to provide these spaces for people to come with their families to enjoy the beaches," said Tara Schneider-Moran, a Town of Hempstead biologist.

The Town of Hempstead and Jones Beach are part of a national study to find the best way to help humans understand our beaches belong to endangered birds like piping plovers, American oystercatchers, terns, and black skimmers, too.

"We do want to push for this idea of sharing the shore. It's not just their nesting area, that it's also our beach season where we are playing volleyball, going swimming," said Shelby Casas of Audubon NY.

The study on the East Coast's Atlantic Flyway, conducted by the Audubon Society and Virginia Tech, will determine how best to teach the public to co-exist, keeping dogs away, and walking around shore birds, not through a flock.

"I like to think of it as sort of a smiley face. If you think of the two birds right in front of you along the edge of the water or out in the sand, if you just do a half circle around them, then you're not walking straight at them," said Ashley Dayer, a professor of fish and wildlife at Virginia Tech.

The researchers are getting the message out with fencing, signage, in-person outreach, and asking the public to keep at least 100 feet from a nesting area.

"That's a little hard to visualize. We have a lot of ways. It's like six kayaks worth of space from the birds. Stay out of the fenced areas. They are clearly marked. They have signage," Casas said.

Getting too close makes birds fly off in fear leaving eggs and young vulnerable.

"We want to protect them so that generations to come can appreciate them and go to the beach and see them nesting for years and years to come," Casas said.

"They are beautiful birds. We love seeing them," said Gail Blumenthal of Oceanside.

"I love the beach, it's nature. The animals belong here," added Stacey Ortiz of Bellmore.

The study's results are due next spring. Researchers are hoping to determine how many more chicks were bred because humans learned how to share the shore.

There are 464 nesting pairs of piping plovers across Long Island.

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