Wilson’s Plover Nesting
By Yank Moore, JIA Conservation Land Manager
This year was a tempestuous season for Jekyll Island’s Wilson’s Plovers with record highs and lows. This season the JIA Conservation Staff identified a Jekyll-record 34 Wilson’s Plover nests. After a rough beginning to the season where fish crows moved in and depredated more than 10 nests, we made the decision to remove all camera monitoring equipment to reduce the chance of attracting more attention by fish crows. After a couple more weeks of the crows hanging around, they finally moved away from the beaches and the plovers began a resurgence to ensure a successful season. Nine of the last 10 nests laid on the beach survived the full incubation period of 25-32 days and hatched a total of more than 26 chicks. We banded 16 of those with 9 of those surviving to fledging (first flight) along with 3 other non-banded chicks. We are hopeful for a return to Jekyll by some of these birds once they become adults and begin to nest on their own.
The nesting habitat was ideal again this year with more expansive open-dune habitat with low rolling dunes with sparse vegetation created by the high tides and storm surge from Hurricane Irma last Fall. With the benefit of good habitat and stewardship, we have seen the population of Wilson’s Plover grow in the number of adult nesting pairs over the last 3 years. With enduring help from the Jekyll Island Foundation, we will continue to monitor our small nesting population again next year, hoping for another record breaking year on Jekyll. Always remember, if you enjoy Jekyll’s beach with your dog (or cat!), never allow them to chase birds, keep them on a leash, and respect the “no pets” area on the south end of the island. These rules are in place to keep Jekyll’s beach a haven for birds like the Wilson’s Plovers that may be one day be lost if not for our careful stewardship.