Nesting colonial waterbirds along the Atlantic Coast of the United States face a number of landscape-level threats including human disturbance, mammalian predator expansion, and habitat alteration. There have been changes from 1977 to the mid-1990s in use of nesting habitats and populations of a number of seabird species of concern in the region, including black skimmers Rynchops niger Linnaeaus, common terns Sterna hirundo Linnaeaus, gull-billed terns Sterna nilotica Linnaeaus, least terns Sterna antillarum Lesson, royal terns Sterna maxima Boddaert, and sandwich terns Sterna sandvicensis Cabot. These species form colonies primarily on the following habitat types: large, sandy barrier or shoal islands, natural estuarine or bay islands (mostly marsh), man-made islands of dredged deposition materials (from navigation channels), and the mainland. Significant changes in the use of the dredged material islands have occurred for these species in New Jersey and North Carolina, but not in Virginia. Population declines and changes in bird habitat use appear to be at least partially associated with the conditions and management of the existing dredged material islands, coastal policy changes associated with creating new dredged material islands, and competing demands for sand for beach augmentation by coastal communities. As these and other coastal habitats become less suitable for colonial waterbirds, other manmade sites, such as bridges and buildings have become increasingly more important. In regions with intense recreational demands, coastal wildlife managers need to take a more aggressive role in managing natural and man-made habitats areas and as stakeholders in the decision-making process involving dredged materials and beach sand allocation.
Additional publication details
Created versus natural coastal islands: Atlantic waterbird populations, habitat choices, and management implications