| Mississippi’s Islands – A Breeding Bird Haven
|Mississippi’s islands, both nearshore and barrier, have long been hotspots for breeding coastal birds. Each of these islands – Deer, Round, Petit Bois, Sand, Horn, Ship, and Cat – are composed of a variety of habitats, and each house a variety, in both species and number, of breeding birds. While some species are solitary-nesting birds, meaning that pairs generally build their nests away from other nests, other species are colonial, meaning that multiple birds build their nests together, in the same area.
By August, many of the solitary-nesting species, such as Snowy Plover, Wilson’s Plover, and American Oystercatcher, are quickly wrapping up their breeding seasons; chicks are fledging and adults are generally done laying eggs for the season. In contrast, many of the colonial-nesting species, such as Black Skimmers, are still going strong, with eggs and chicks still on the ground.
The 2023 island breeding season has been a successful one, during which stewards have observed upwards of 20 Snowy Plover, 20 Wilson’s Plover, 16 American Oystercatcher, and 18 Common Nighthawk nests. Many of these nests have also successfully hatched and fledged chicks.
While nest and chick counts for colonial species continue to change, small numbers of nesting Least Terns, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Gull-billed Terns, and Common Terns have been spotted on the islands, as well as larger numbers of Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls. Other species documented nesting on the islands this year include Osprey, Willet, Black-necked Stilt, and Least Bittern.
As a word of caution to island goers, please be aware of your surroundings as you enjoy time on the beautiful islands. Agitated birds are often the best indicator of nearby breeding activity which can be a helpful hint to set up a bit further down the beach. While larger colonies are usually obvious, species like Snowy Plovers rely on being as secretive and camouflaged as possible, and their nests and chicks can easily be trampled by unsuspecting beachgoers.
Please continue to respect posted nesting areas and understand that signs may not be placed around all nesting birds. The ACBS hopes everyone enjoys their time on the islands and encourages everyone to share the shore with the feathered friends who call these islands home.