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Those who destroyed shorebird eggs in Gateway National Recreation Area

Close-up of destroyed American oystercatcher egg Kathryn McCabe/USFWS

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the conviction of those who destroyed an American oystercatcher egg at Gateway National Recreation Area At New York.

American oystercatchers are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The maximum penalties under this law are $15,000 and/or up to six months in jail for taking each egg. Although the date and time of the incident are unknown, the destroyed eggs were discovered on July 6 around 6 p.m. (Eastern Time). Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Kathryn McCabe at (516) 318-7383; the 24-hour dispatch of the NPS Jamaica Bay unit at (718) 354-4700; or 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).

The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $5,000 to eligible individuals for information that significantly advances investigations and/or leads to enforcement action for those responsible for the following cases of egg destruction and American Oystercatcher and Piping Plover nests in New York City and Long Island this breeding season:

  • Between 1 p.m. May 13 and 10 a.m. May 15, 2022, approximately 57 American Oystercatcher eggs and four Piping Plover eggs were collected from their nests between Beach 38 and Beach 57 on an ocean beach in City Parks from New York to Arverne, Queens. A blue hooded sweatshirt with a star pattern was discovered at the site alongside broken American oystercatcher eggshells.

  • On May 15, a dead adult piping plover was found at Beach 47 on the same ocean beach at New York City Parks in Arverne, Queens.

  • On or about May 20, two American Oystercatcher nests were tampered with at Beach 64 in Arverne, Queens.

  • Between May 23 and 24, a piping plover nest and surrounding predator exclosure was intentionally destroyed on an ocean beach in New York State Parks at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon.

  • On June 11, protective fencing was destroyed and individuals were observed setting up tents in the Piping Plover breeding areas on 56.5 Beach in Arverne, Queens. Three (3) Piping Plover eggs were missing from a nest after this event.

  • Between June 11 and 14, two piping plover nests and predator exclosures were intentionally destroyed on a New York State Parks ocean beach at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh.

  • On June 26, raging dogs were observed and eggs from a piping plover nest were taken from protected piping plover breeding grounds on an ocean beach in the town of Southampton, just east of the park of the Shinnecock East County.

The piping plover is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The maximum penalties under the Endangered Species Act are a $25,000 fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment for the removal of each individual egg or bird. Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to contact USFWS Special Agent Kathryn McCabe at 516-825-3950 or 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).

How you can help shorebirds

With ever-increasing demand on beaches across the country, there are fewer places for shorebirds like American oystercatchers and piping plovers to raise families, feed and rest. The USFWS and NPS work with partners to protect and recover these species on public and private lands, but the public can also help by keeping the needs of shorebirds in mind when visiting the shore. Here are five ways to make the beach more bird-friendly:

1. Follow all posted rules. By respecting the marked areas, knowing what you can and cannot do at the specific beach you are visiting, and understanding that beaches are havens for birds, you can help keep them safe.

2. Give the birds space. Flushing birds when they try to eat or rest stresses them out and prevents them from feeding their chicks or refueling for their long flights.

3. Follow posted rules regarding leashing dogs. Even good dogs scare away beach birds. A curious dog could accidentally injure a bird.

4. Do not leave litter on the beach, including food waste. It attracts predators, such as raccoons, which feed on chicks and eggs.

5. Don’t feed the birds. Gulls in particular are attracted to your lunch. Our food is not part of their natural diet, and more gulls can further disturb some of the species at risk that need protection.

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