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DNR News

Dec. 2, 2013

Highlights from the seabird nesting season at DNR bird sanctuaries

The seabird nesting season has come to an end and data from nesting areas have been compiled for this season. 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.

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 5,396 Brown Pelican, 8,142 Royal Tern, 3,052 Sandwich Tern and 674 Black Skimmer nests statewide.Brown Pelican

This year, wildlife biologists partnered with DNR Law Enforcement pilots to conduct flights and photograph DNR seabird colonies from the air. Aerial photography was used to count Brown Pelican nests at Deveaux Bank, the largest rookery in the state, with 3,600 nests counted from photographs this year. DNR staff are utilizing aerial photography to lessen disturbance of ground counts. "With so many nests to count, we definitely miss some when we conduct ground counts. This technique is more accurate and definitely less disturbing to these birds; we look forward to continuing our aerial counts in the future." says biologist Janet Thibault.

Deveaux Bank also hosted the largest Black Skimmer colony in the state this year with 276 pairs of birds nesting on the island. This year was the first in several that this colony produced fledglings. In past years the colony had failed due to high tides and storms that have flooded the nests of these birds that lay their eggs in small scrapes in the sand. "We were so excited to see adults successfully raising chicks this year. It is the first time I have seen so many fledglings since I began working at DNR." said Thibault.

All of these colonial seabirds, are listed as Highest Priority Conservation Status under the South Carolina Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

This year, DNR was happy to partner with the SC Audubon Society to help educate the public about seabird conservation and begin a citizen shorebird stewardship program.

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


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