Respect Seabrook Island shorebirds and habitat!

Seabrook Island North Beach is an important Critical Habitat for shorebirds in SC – Federally protected Red Knot and Piping Plover, SC protected Wilson’s Plover & Least Tern, and numerous shorebirds that migrate or are permanent throughout the year. Seabrook Island Birders is fortunate to have strong partnerships working with us to protect our shorebirds.

Human disturbance harms shorebirds …their survival depends on you!

Give the birds space: Resting and feeding are critical to survival of migratory and wintering birds. If birds run or fly, you are too close! Keep out of posted areas & dunes: Birds may be nesting. disturbance causes egg & chick loss.

Be a Bird Friendly Dog Owner: Keep dogs on leash when near bird flocks. Don’t allow dogs to chase, it stresses the birds & saps their energy for migration. Follow Seabrook’s Beach Rules for Pets.

Red Knot winter plumage, with band and geolocator, Federally Threatened.
Red Knot foraging on North Beach shore, banded with breeding plumage
Red Knot, flocks in Spring at North Beach have been up to 5000 knots!
Piping Plover, “Little VB”, Great Lakes Region banded, Federally Endangered, one of the 2020 captive raised chicks resighted by Mark Andrews, along with “Red Yellow”…
Piping Plover, “Red Yellow”. These two Piping Plovers have been our “guests” for winter 2020-2021.
Piping Plover resting on North Beach in SC DNR white sign protected area
Wilson’s Plover, breeding plumage, SC Threatened, nests on North Beach
Least Tern, courting behavior, SC Threatened, nests on North Beach

The “Umbrella Effect” – what we do for the “important four” has “umbrella” effect of protecting other species with declining populations and at risk of “Threatened” status without conservation efforts.

American Oystercatcher, banded U5, resighted for many years, nests on North Beach
Black Skimmer, nests at Deveaux Bank
Whimbrel, at North Beach during migration, breeds in subarctic and alpine tundra
Red Knot in migration, North Beach

Red Knots have one of the longest migrations of any bird, 18,000 miles round trip from the tip of South America to the Arctic where they breed. From March to early May, Seabrook Island is an important stopping point for them to feed and rest on their long journey north to breed.

Red Knot Migration, 18000 mile roundtrip journey, SC DNR research at Seabrook discovered some portion of Seabrook flock flies directly to North Canada

Seabrook Island has one of the largest single flocks of Red Knots in Eastern US, with thousands seen at a time during peak in Apr-May. Knot population on East Coast has declined 85% since 1980. Knots are “Federally Threatened” under the US Endangered Species Act.

Piping Plover, orange band (or flag) Great Lakes region, Federally Endangered

Piping Plovers breed at Great Lakes, Atlantic, and Great Plains areas from April to July. In late July they migrate to southern coasts and Caribbean to winter until next spring. Seabrook is an important wintering & migratory site. Quality foraging & roosting habitat on winter beaches is key for adults to survive and return to breeding sites.

Piping Plover Breeding Regions

Piping Plover populations and breeding habitats have drastically declined. Development, people, dogs, predators, weather, and environment are serious threats. Great Lakes area Piping Plovers are “Federally Endangered” with less than 70 breeding pairs remaining. Atlantic area are “Federally Threatened”.

Piping Plover, Black flag 2K, Atlantic Canada Region, Federally Threatened, seen at Seabrook for 3 years

Banding tracks an individual bird to study the entire life-cycle – where they go, how long they live, what resources are needed for survival. During Red Knot migration on Seabrook, SC DNR teams apply new and identify existing bands, and place/retrieve geolocators and nanotags which provide data on movement.

SC DNR research on Seabrook, placing nanotag for tracking

Piping Plover bands are placed in various configurations on upper and lower legs. Flag/ band colors define breeding area, and/or where bird was banded. Wintering Seabrook Piping Plovers are mostly spotted from Great Lakes, Atlantic US & Canada breeding areas.

Seabrook Island Beach Rules for Dogs/Pets

Restricted Area/Red: From Boardwalk #1 to the Atlantic Ocean and continuing northeast to Captain Sam’s Inlet. No person shall bring or allow any dog/pet into the restricted area at any time, on or off a leash.

Limited Restricted Area/Yellow: Beginning approximately 300 yards northwest from Boardwalk #9 (Pelican Watch Boardwalk) to the Edisto River and continuing northwest to Privateer Creek. No person shall bring or allow any dog/pet into the limited restricted area that is not on a leash at all times.

General Beach Area/Green: In all other areas of the beach other than the restricted area and limited restricted area described above, the following rules apply:

Peak Season – Apr 1 to Sep 30: Dogs/pets must be on a leash – of not more than 16’ – between 10am & 5pm. Dogs/pets may be off-leash before 10am & after 5pm, and must be effectively controlled while on the beach.

Non-Peak Season – Oct 1 to Mar 31: Dogs/pets may be off leash 24/7 and must be effectively controlled while on the beach.

Section 32-44 Town of Seabrook Island Code.

These rules provide protection of critical areas for migratory and nesting shorebirds and other wildlife, provide pet owners and their pets access to a large off-leash area, and provide beachgoers with a pet-free beach and swimming area.

Article and photos by Ed Konrad, all photos taken on North Beach

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