By Ben Carswell
JIA Director of Conservation
With support from the Jekyll Island Foundation, The Jekyll Island Authority has been closely monitoring nesting Wilson’s plovers on the island since 2015. Although these shorebirds are declining across most of their range and are classified as Threatened by the State of Georgia, we’ve been glad to see a generally upward trend in the number of nesting pairs that reproduce on Jekyll between March and July each summer.
One result of the increase in nesting pairs is that we are now seeing these birds nest in places that they had not been using. As the population rebuilds from a low point of just one nesting pair reported in 2009, all the available territory taken quickly in what had been the corps nesting grounds on the island’s southern point, or Glory Beach. That’s great news, unless you are a plover pair looking for a vacancy, in which case, you’ll need look elsewhere.
For the past two years, we’ve monitored several plover nests in the dunes along the island’s busier, central beaches. Because these would-be plover parents are using areas more heavily trafficked by people and outside of the no-pet-zone on the south end, which was established to help their recovery, they are exposed to more stress and threats. This year, two nests near Oceanview Beach Park had close brushes with a loose dog and a free-roaming domestic cat. Thankfully the nests ended up hatching a total of six chicks.
We are very encouraged to find that even Jekyll’s more developed and frequented beaches can support Wilson’s Plover reproduction. This kind of adaptability may help save the species, but we cannot take it for granted. Without the awareness, care, and responsibility of beachgoers and pet owners, Wilson’s plovers could easily lose the ground they’ve gained on Jekyll.
You can help protect nesting plovers and other shorebirds by keeping pets on-leash, spaying/neutering and keeping cats indoors, and steering clear of sand dune areas above the tide line, including the smallest, youngest dunes closest to the beach. Plovers like to nest in these the most! To learn more about our conservation efforts, visit JekyllIsland.com/Conservation or to help bird conservation and research efforts on Jekyll Island, GIVE NOW.