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DNR News

August 29, 2012

Highlights from the seabird nesting season at DNR bird sanctuaries

The seabird nesting season is beginning to wind down on South Carolina’s coastal islands. Colonial seabirds including Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, and Black Skimmers nested on S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Seabird Sanctuary islands located along the coast this year.

Deveaux Bank, Bird Key and Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuaries are in Charleston County. These preserves offer ideal nesting and foraging conditions for these birds which make their nests on the ground and feed their chicks small fish. Due to the sensitive nature of the colonies, portions of Deveaux Bank and all of Bird Key and Crab Bank are closed to the public from March 15 through Oct. 15 to protect breeding bird nests and their young. Dogs and camping are prohibited year round on these DNR managed islands. For more information check the DNR Managed Lands website.

DNR biologists survey seabird nests every summer to determine nesting numbers at each island and to monitor overall trends of colonial seabird populations in the state. This season, biologists counted 3,451 Brown Pelican, 4,198 Royal Tern, and 2,139 Sandwich Tern and 203 Black Skimmer nests on DNR Seabird Sanctuaries. Nesting appears to have been successful for most of these species and many chicks have fledged and can be seen loafing at the water’s edge.

Least Terns attempted to nest on a few DNR properties, but many nests were not successful this year due to a variety of reasons including flooding, predation and human disturbance. Least Terns are listed as Threatened in South Carolina and have experienced many years of poor nesting numbers and nest failure.

Black Skimmers tend to nest later in the season than other colonial seabirds. Currently, Black Skimmer adults are tending to chicks or with fledglings. The public is reminded to view birds from a safe distance so as not to disturb adult birds roosting and feeding chicks and to respect posted closed areas.

All of these colonial seabirds, are listed as Highest Priority Conservation Status under the South Carolina Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. For more information, check the DNR comprehensive conservation wildlife strategy Pdf file.

This year, DNR was happy to partner with the SC Audubon Society to help educate the public about seabird conservation and to maintain more of a presence at several Seabird Sanctuaries.

For additional information, contact Felicia Sanders at SandersF@dnr.sc.gov.

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