| Soaring High After Eight Years: Mississippi’s Coastal Bird Stewardship Program reaches new heights|
|The Audubon Mississippi Coastal Bird Stewardship Program is entering into its eighth year of promoting the conservation and management of coastal birds. The program has grown tremendously since its launch in 2014.|
Started as a direct result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster, the program uses a grassroots approach to conservation, building constituents and advocates to support healthy populations of coastal birds and habitats. The program relies on volunteers and works to form strategic partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies, academic institutions, and community organizations. With the help of these volunteers and partners, we aim to conserve, restore, and protect a network of coastal sites for local, migratory, and breeding birds. Some of the program’s focal species include Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers.
Building on the foundation laid by the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society, the program continues to monitor bird populations using the Audubon Coastal Bird Survey (ACBS). While ACBS has been adopted by Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama to track post-oil spill populations, Mississippi remains its stronghold, with 26 sites that are surveyed by staff and dedicated community volunteers (interactive ACBS map).
In 2019, a banding project was started with a focus on Least Terns and plovers. Preliminary resight information is informing biologists of where and how much time these individuals are spending on the Mississippi coast. Meanwhile, every summer, our seasonal and volunteer Bird Stewards help protect Mississippi’s mainland breeding Least Terns and Black Skimmers by symbolically fencing nesting areas and conducting outreach with the public. One thing is for sure, our work has paid off! Stewardship efforts have resulted in a 60% increase in Least Tern nests in the state.
Since 2014, Audubon volunteers have contributed over 6,000 hours to protect and monitor coastal birds. Under a recently secured GOMESA grant, the program continues to expand and is piloting its first year of migratory/wintering bird stewardship, as well as sea turtle monitoring in Harrison County! If are interested in the program and would like to become a volunteer, please visit volunteer here or for general questions email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to all we can achieve together and will see you out on the beaches!