The south end of Wrightsville Beach has seen the success of a bird sanctuary that has been designed to protect the nesting grounds of shore birds, in particular least terns and black skimmers. The south end of Wrightsville Beach serves as a vital breeding and hatching ground for these species and its impact can be seen statewide. Audubon North Carolina’s coastal biologist Lindsay Addison said the region is vital for these species’ existence as the south side of Wrightsville Beach provides a home for more than “600 pairs of least terns, which represents 15 to 20 percent of the entire nesting population in North Carolina and over 100 pairs of skimmers, which represents
6 to 7 percent of the population.”
The sanctuary consists of two two by fours with a string and a sign that informs beach visitors about the location of the nesting grounds. The postings were monitored by volunteers that helped show visitors where the nesting grounds were and so that no one encroaches the posting by stepping into the nests. These postings have recently been taken down for the season as the birds have migrated south and their purpose has been served.
Addison said, “If we did not put up the posting and without the human presence there, people would not know to not walk through there, they would walk through the areas. Without the posting, without the volunteers and our staff, they probably would try to nest and would have failed.”
The effort and hard work surmounted by the volunteers and staff in monitoring these birds has been exemplified in the success rate of the hatchings this past year, as well as the number of birds from other areas in the coast that have migrated to the south end to lay nests. Addison stated, that in 2012, in addition to the least terns and the black skimmers, there were American oyster catchers, six common terns, and one pair of willets. There is also a very high success rate of hatchings as well as more than 60 percent of the least terns nests monitored hatched, and more than 40 percent of the black skimmers hatched.
These numbers have decreased slightly from the previous year, but this “was the due to a high tide, not due to disturbance,” Addison said. As Wrightsville Beach looks to continue its successful monitoring and preserving of the birds, Addison added, “We monitored hatching success and they were successful.”