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The Coastal Code

Follow the Coastal Code to minimise disturbance to birds. When birds are disturbed, they stop feeding or resting and may even fly away. If the birds cannot feed and rest undisturbed, they will not have enough energy to survive.

Coastal users are helping birds thrive by making sure they:

Ranger Julie holding a sign saying look out for birds

Look out for birds

Look carefully for any coastal birds who may be sharing the coastline you’re visiting. If you see birds on an area of the beach, it makes sense to avoid that area completely so they can rest or feed undisturbed. Quite a few of our coastal birds, such as the dunlin, the turnstone, the ringed plover and the sanderling are very well camouflaged, particularly on shingle. They can be quite hard to spot unless you look really carefully.

Ranger Tony holding a sign saying to move further away if birds become alert

Move further away if birds become alert

Signs that birds have become aware of you and are getting ready for flight include: lifting their heads or turning their heads in your direction; crying out; stretching or flapping their wings; walking or swimming away.

If you think birds are becoming alert to your presence, it’s a good idea to move further away.

Jo holds a sign saying keep dogs alongside

Keep dogs alongside you

Even the best behaved dogs will disturb coastal birds if they’re not kept close to you, well away from where the birds are feeding and resting. If you want to let your dog off the lead to run around, it’s best to use an area where birds don’t choose to rest and feed. If birds are disturbed by dogs and fly away, they use up valuable energy and may have missed a limited opportunity for feeding that day.

For great tips for walking your dog on the coast, visit our beach dogs page.

Ranger Alice holds a sign saying follow requests on signs

Follow requests on signs

In particularly sensitive areas, you’ll find signs which give you more information about protecting the wildlife on the shore. If there’s a path on the area of the coast you’re visiting, using it can be a great way to make sure you’re minimising disturbance to birds.

Why we need to follow the Coastal Code

Some human activities can disturb birds from their natural behaviour. Often people cause bird disturbance without even realising.

When birds are disturbed, they stop feeding or resting and may even fly away. If the birds cannot feed and rest undisturbed, they will not have enough energy to survive. Many birds on our coast do not stay here all year, they migrate from different parts of the world to enjoy our special shores. Migratory birds need to rest and refuel when they arrive in the Solent and then spend their time here building up energy-reserves for their migration back. If they are not well rested and fed when they leave their winter home, they may arrive in their breeding grounds without enough energy to breed successfully – successful breeding seasons are essential to maintain population numbers.