Baby Green Herons © Harry Purcell


The barrier island habitat limits the species of birds that can successfully nest on the beaches, dunes, swales and marshes. Among those that nest in the upper beaches are the Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers, Least and Gull-billed Terns and Black Skimmers. The terns and skimmers are colonial nesters, choosing flat areas between dunes. Occasionally, extreme tides and storms will flood these areas and wipe out entire colonies including chicks and eggs. When these determined species try again to nest, they meet shortened deadlines to bring their offspring to maturity before it is time to migrate south. From late spring through midsummer, you will see areas on the beaches that are cordoned off restricting access to beachgoers. This is to protect the breeding colonies from careless foot traffic.

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Wildlife, including feral cats, also prey on ground-nesting bird colonies, and in some years there are few young raised to adulthood. Willets breed singularly and sparsely on the island well away from the shoreline. Like other ground nesting species on the island, their eggs are camouflaged well. If a nest is approached, the adult will feign a broken wing to lure the predator away from the nest. Can you pick out the egg in the Black Skimmer nest?

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Black Skimmer Nest © John Powanda

Great Blue Herons safely nest high in pine trees found primarily within the National Seashore boundaries. Typically raising two or three young in large stick nests in loose colonies, they sometimes steal sticks from their neighbors’ nests to adorn their own. Green Herons and Snowy Egrets prefer the dense canopy of Live Oaks in which to nest. The eggs of each of these species are blue-green, with no need for camouflage as the nests are in the treetops.

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Blue Herons © David Sparks

Northern Mockingbirds nest wherever you might find shrubby vegetation. Its vast repertoire of other bird songs and calls can be heard on moonlight nights during the breeding season from mid-April through the summer. Eurasian Collared-Doves  nest in the canopy of trees. This large dove is often found perched on utility lines. Common Grackles are large blackbirds and also nest in tree canopies. The iridescent black feathers on both genders make this bird hard to miss as it walks around on lawns and roadsides.

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Northern Mockingbird © Brenda Callaway

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