"Aerial view of the refuge" by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region , publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Eastern Shore of Virginia

Nesting Birds

brochure Eastern Shore of Virginia - Nesting Birds

Nesting Birds at Eastern Shore of Virginia (NWR) in Virginia. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

WATCH YOUR STEP! Piping Plover Help protect Virginia’s nesting birds. Nests and chicks are sensitive to your presence from April through September. Please: 1 Respect all posted bird nesting areas. Do not enter nesting colonies. 2 Leave your dogs at home. They may step on nests and chase birds. 3 Avoid the berm, dunes, washovers, and backside mudflats. 4 Remain below the last high tide line to avoid disturbing chicks or damaging eggs. 5 Be aware of birds calling loudly from the beach or over your head. They are letting you know that you are too close to a nest or hidden chicks. 6 Teach others to appreciate the beauty and wildlife of Virginia’s barrier islands. See the egg hidden in the sand? That’s why it’s so important to walk below the high tide line whenever possible. You’re just visiting, the beach is home. From April through early September, thousands of birds nest on the beaches of Virginia’s barrier islands. The islands provide important breeding areas for several bird species whose populations are declining or that are considered threatened or endangered. Life on the beach can be tough, and these birds need your help to survive. Beach-nesting birds, such as the Black Skimmer, lay their eggs directly into shallow depressions in the sand. The eggs and nests are very hard to see against the sandy background. Some species nest in colonies that range in size from two to over a Wilson’s Plover thousand pairs of birds and can be very noisy and conspicuous. Others, such as the Piping Plover are less noticeable because they breed in territories defended by a single pair. Once the eggs hatch, adult birds raise their young along the beaches, dunes, mudflats, and marsh edges of the islands where the chicks can feed and hide until they are able to fly. By learning about these vulnerable birds and their breeding habits, you can help ensure that they successfully raise young and that they continue to be a part of the rich biodiversity of Virginia’s barrier islands. NESTING ON THE BEACH CAN BE TOUGH. Beach-nesting birds have to beat some hefty odds to successfully produce young on Virginia’s barrier islands. Natural threats such as storm waves and extremely high tides can wash out large numbers of nests or drown flightless chicks. Predators such as raccoons, foxes, gulls, and crows who love to feast on eggs, chicks, and occasionally adult birds, also are significant threats. Breeding birds are only successful when photography by: f. truslow (vireo), brad winn (georgia department of natural resources), michael costello (cornell lab of ornithology), lawrence wales (cornell lab of ornithology), richard kusminski (u.s. fish and wildlife service) but for these birds, all of these unpredictable circumstances are in their favor. Most importantly, they need undisturbed nesting sites near good feeding areas, favorable weather, and few predators. Black Skimmer PEOPLE ON THE BEACH CAN MAKE NESTING EVEN TOUGHER. People using the beaches during the breeding season present an additional challenge to beachnesting birds and may unknowingly impact the birds’ chances of success. Someone wandering through a nesting area may accidentally step on wellcamouflaged eggs or chicks. Dogs can quickly find and destroy nests or chase young birds. Additionally, people and pets venturing too close to nesting sites cause adult birds to leave their nests, exposing chicks and eggs to predators or excessive temperatures. Trash left in nesting areas attracts raccoons and gulls, and places the birds in greater danger of being discovered by predators. You can help protect these beach-nesting birds so that they continue to grace Virginia’s coastal environment. Before visiting the islands, become familiar with the various beach habitats the birds call home by referring to the diagram on the inside of this brochure. LEARN TO RECOGNIZE BARRIER ISLAND BEACH-NESTING BIRDS. A merican O y stercatcher Oystercatchers are striking brown, black, and white shorebirds with long, orange-red bills. They defend solitary nesting territories on the berm, dunes, washovers, and high marsh areas. Their loud, high-pitched call will let you know when you are too close to a nest or chicks. B lack S kimmer Skimmers are black above and white below with long, slender wings. The lower part of their knifeshaped black and red bill is longer than the upper part. They feed by ‘skimming’ the water’s surface with their bills to catch small fish. Skimmers nest in colonies on washovers and have a distinct ‘barking’ call. TERNS Several species of terns breed on Virginia’s barrier islands. All are whitish, slender-winged birds that aggressively defend their nests by swooping down on intruders. Some tern species nest in colonies on washovers, often with Black Skimmers, while others nest in the marsh. Least Tern P I P I N G P LOV E R A federally threatened species, this small ghostly solitary-nesting shorebird is well camouflaged against the background of a beach. They are sand colored above, white below with a black breast band, and have a short orange and black bill. You may not notice Piping Plovers until you hear their soft whistling call warning that you are close to a nesting territory on the berm or washover. W ilson ’ s P lover An endangered species in Virginia, this shorebird is slightly bigger than the Piping Plover and has darker upperparts and a more upright posture. Wilson’s Plovers have a single dark breast band and a heavy black bill. They nest on washovers and often sneak around dune grass and beach debris, making them difficult to detect. Their highpitched alarm call announces American Oystercatcher you are too close to a nest. Virginia Barrier Island Ownership 6 RT As sat eag ue Isla nd Greenbackville Harbor W h o Ow n s V i r g i n i a ' s RT 679 79 Hallwood Call (757) 442-3049 www.nature.org/vcr Wallops Island RT 689 Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries 13 RT RT Gargatha Landing Call (804) 829-6580 www.dgif.virginia.gov Assawoman Island 680 6 RT Dept. of Conservation and Recreation Call (757) 787-5989 www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage 66 Parkers Creek Landing Metompkin Island U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges Folly Creek Landing Cedar Island Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR – Call (757) 331-2760 www.fws.gov/northeast/easternshore/ 0 RT 13 RT 605 Chincoteague NWR – Call (757) 336-6122 www.fws.gov/northeast/chinco/ RT 6 0 Fisherman Island NWR – Call (757) 331-2760 Wachapreague Town Dock National Aeronautics and Space Administration 5 Wallops Flight Facility – Call (757) 824-1720 sites.wff.nasa.gov/code250/ 60 RT Quinby Harbor The islands are owned by public and private agencies. Call the numbers below before planning a trip to the Barrier Islands. Many islands are seasonally closed to protect beach nesting birds. The Nature Conservancy RT 6 Wisharts Point Landing 79 RT 175 East Side Boat Ramp Barrier Islands? Parramore Island Boating Access & Seaside Water Trail Willis Wharf Harbor Public Access Sites Seaside Heritage Program Canoe/Kayak Water Trail 60 0 Revel Island RT For more information on access to the islands and the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program including the Canoe/Kayak Water Trail go to: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/ CoastalZoneManagement/CZMIssuesInitiatives/ VirginiaSeasideHeritageProgram.aspx Red Bank Boat Ramp RT 60 RT 13 0 Hog Island Cobb Island Eastville RT 631 RT 600 Little Cobb Island Oyster Harbor Ramp Cape Charles 0 8 4 12 16 Wreck Island Mockhorn Wildlife Management Area RT 600 Ship Shoal Island Miles Myrtle Island This brochure was funded in part by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through grants from NOAA under the federal CZMA and in part by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries through a grant from the USFWS Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Project WE99R14. Exterior text, graphics, photos and layout are based on a similar brochure developed by the Hauser Group for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Wildlife & Natural Heritage Section. A special thanks to our friends in Georgia for use of their materials. Text was adapted by several Virginia Seaside Heritage Program partners whose logos appear above. Map data provided by Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, The Nature Conservancy and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Final design was developed by the Virginia Office of Graphic Communications, Department of General Services. Kiptopeke State Park Smith Island Eastern Shore of VA National Wildlife Refuge Fisherman Island 2nd Printing - July 2012 BARRIER ISLAND BIRD NESTING HABITATS Ocean or Inlet Intertidal Zone Area below the high tide line is safe for human traffic and passive recreational activities Berm Nesting habitat for ground nesters such as terns, skimmers and shorebirds Dune Back Dune Nesting habitat for ground nesters such as shorebirds, gulls and an occasional least tern Nesting habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds, herons and egrets Washover A large flat expanse of beach, created by major storm events, that forms an extension of the berm to the backside of the island. Washovers are important nesting areas for ground nesters such as shorebirds, terns, and black skimmers. PLEASE AVOID WALKING OVER OR THROUGH BIRD NESTING HABITATS DURING THE BREEDING SEASON. PLEASE REMAIN IN THE INTERTIDAL ZONE AND STAY ON WET SAND. Mudflat Critical feeding area for shorebirds and their young Saltmarsh Nesting habitat for marsh dependent species such as rails and several species of gulls, waterfowl, shorebirds, terns and some songbirds

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