SAND ISLAND, ALABAMA — Beachgoers on a small Alabama island may have unknowingly killed scores of baby birds.
The group inadvertently disturbed the nesting grounds of a rare, protected bird.
AL.com reports that least terns are small coastal birds that lay their eggs on depressions in the sand — something that leaves them vulnerable to a whole host of threats.
One such threat came bouncing up this summer, collecting the grape-sized eggs and stacking them around a dome of sand to make way for a volleyball space.
Thing is, least tern eggs need to be kept cool, not warm. So leaving them unprotected under the sun pretty much baked those chicks to death.
The disturbing site was discovered over the Fourth of July Weekend by wildlife researcher Andrew Haffenden, who was conducting a bird survey for nonprofit Birmingham Audubon and had earlier spotted several tents and a net on the island.
Haffenden and his group later put up ropes and signs around the nesting area, and alerted U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Despite the mass carnage and the storms that hit in late July, Haffenden says the current number of active nests indicate that it just might shape up to be a good year for the birds.