- April 20, 2011
There are 1,634,701km of coastline on Earth. If we stretched it all out it would wrap around the center of the planet 402 times. The coasts include soft-shores (i.e. sand), rocky shores and cliffs, hilly or flat coastal plains, narrow or wide coastal shelves and a wide variety of wetlands (estuaries, saltmarshes, deltas). Human beings have not been insensitive to the wide array of opportunities provided by the coasts and have been attracted to them, making the coasts the most favored locations to either live permanently, for leisure, recreational activities, or tourism. About 41% of the world’s population lives on the coast. The United States and Japan are the countries with the largest coastal urban areas 1. These special, high-density areas stand to gain a lot from your efforts at bird-friendly landscaping; so dive right in!
Gardening along the coast can be a challenge if you try to grow traditional garden plants. Flowers, trees, and shrubs found in the classic backyard setting are not adapted to the sometimes harsh conditions of the coast: excesses of salt, wind, sand, and weather. Choosing plants that thrive in such conditions, like sea oats or beach morning glory (also called bayhops), is an easy way to turn coastal property into habitat. Because coastal areas are so popular, animals that call such habitats home are some of the most vulnerable to residential development, overfishing, and pollution.
There are about 173 bird species that depend on coastal habitats, and half of the shorebirds that migrate along coasts are in decline. You can support species like Piping Plover, Least Tern, Black Oystercatcher, or Wilson’s Plover by choosing native plants adapted to coastal environments. Limiting human activity in areas where shorebirds are known to be nesting is one of the most important things homeowners can do to help support shorebirds; many people don’t realize that human disturbance can cause problems like nest site abandonment, failure to store enough fat for migration, and erosion of beach habitat. Adult shorebirds need to nest near a source of fresh water because their chicks cannot metabolize salts for several weeks after hatching. Providing that source of fresh water is one easy way to help support nesting shorebirds.
Tip: Protect nesting and migrating shorebirds by always leashing your dog when going for walks on the beach.
Start a Current
Many birds we think of as “coastal” (pelicans, albatrosses, and shearwaters, to name a few) may never visit your beach, but you can nevertheless improve your odds of seeing them offshore by supporting pelagic bird conservation efforts. Because all coastal waters are publicly owned, we each can take steps to conserve the birds that depend on them. Learn about initiatives that could affect ocean-going birds near you (for instance, offshore energy development, marine trash, sustainable fishing) and empower yourself to make informed consumer choices.