If you’re a brand new beachcomber, it’s easy to understand why you think some things look so fun. They seem seem like a good idea at the time, but here’s a friendly tip…
Ahhh … the sight of sand and sparkling waves is amazingly beautiful, the sound of the surf is exciting and soothing at once, and the salty breeze is just right to balance the heat of the gloriously shining sun. Everything is such a treat to the senses that it’s hard to take it all in.
Besides all that is the wildlife, maybe some you’ve never seen before. The sand crabs are fun to watch, a little hilarious because of the way they crawl sideways. But then, they get the last laugh because they’re so incredibly fast at scooting across the sand and darting in and out of their little holes.
Another thrill is when you have the good fortune to spot a pod of dolphins not far offshore. They cruise along the coastline searching for food, and you see glimpses of their fins and sleek bodies as they roll and dive in pairs, twos, threes, or even more. Sometimes they leap completely out of the water, as if they know that while their chasing dinner they’re also entertaining the fascinated audience watching from afar.
Then there are the seagulls, often dozens and dozens of them. If you haven’t experienced them before, you may be utterly amazed at how close they will fly by, even hovering very near you so close you could almost reach up and touch them. It occurs to you these birds seem so tame they might eat out of your hand, and you quickly rummage through your gear looking for some kind of treat to feed them.
You soon discover that when you toss a little morsel on the sand, the birds instantly swoop down to gobble it up. When you throw another morsel they start fighting over it, so you toss a bunch at once, and the seagulls surprise you by catching those tidbits in mid air. What fun to see!
One Reason Your New-Found Fun Is Such A Bad Idea
We’ve all done it, and then we’ve figured out two things. One, the birds are the pros, and we’re the suckers. They immediately recognize us “new” people on the beach, and they know the routine. If they show up and hang around, we’re going to feed them. They’re not stupid. They know a free meal when they see it.
The second thing you realize, too late, is this: Birds eat. Birds poop. It’s bad enough that poop gets all over the sand where you’ll step in it. It’s also all over your beach towel, chairs, umbrella, ice chest, the kids’ toys, and everything else. If you get really unlucky, it might even land on you.
Remember those signs at hotels and condos that say “Don’t Feed Birds From Deck”? If you thought they were just trying to spoil your fun, now you know. They’re protecting their property and trying to keep it nice for your enjoyment.
The Most Important Reason You Shouldn’t Feed the Birds
If you’ve ever made this mistake you know that once you feed the birds, they’ll come back every day that you’re on the beach. They’ll find you, and they won’t leave you alone. Besides the mess they make, they chatter constantly and fight each other for position in case you throw out a morsel. Even if you don’t mind all that, you’re also spoiling the serenity for those around you.
However, far more important is that you’re doing harm to the birds themselves. First of all, it’s highly unlikely that the treats you’re tossing out are a healthy snack for seagulls. They don’t know that, and they’ll eat just about anything, including chips and candy.
In addition to that, The University of Florida IFAS Extension service offers the following important reasons why we humans should not be feeding water birds:
- when birds lose their natural fear of humans they can become aggressive
- birds filling up on “human” foods can suffer from malnutrition
- birds that become completely dependent on humans can forget how to teach their young to properly forage for food
- a concentration of bird feces in an area can degrade the quality of the water
- unnaturally high concentration of birds in an area can facilitate the spread of diseases
Seagulls can also choke or even die from eating foods that are too difficult for them to swallow. Though it’s hard to comprehend, there are actually people who will throw non-food items because they think it’s funny that the birds will eat garbage. Even if I’m tossing them the most nutritional treat possible, I’m contributing to the problem because I’m teaching them to trust humans. While I may have only good intentions, the next human they encounter may not.
Fortunately, the vast majority of us would never do harm intentionally. We just need to be informed, and now you know that besides the potential mess, there are some important reasons why this falls into the “what not to do at the beach” category. There are SO many fun ways to enjoy the beach. It’s very easy to be kind to the wildlife and still have an absolutely wonderful time!
If you love the beach as much as I do, please share this on Pinterest and help spread the word!