Bald Head Island Conservancy

Share the Shore: Nesting Shorebird Season Begins on Bald Head Island

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by Katie Knotek, Conservation Technician

It’s bird nesting season! You may have noticed more signs than usual out on the beach. These are designating shorebird nesting areas. You might see nesting birds sitting in the sand or acting territorial if you get too close. Bald Head Island Conservancy assists state management agencies with protection of shorebird species of conservation concern. Here are three species that you might see around the island:

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Wilson’s Plover with three chicks
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Wilson’s Plover nest with eggs

Wilson’s Plover

Breeding adults are identified by their thick black beak, black band around their necks, and small black cap on their heads. They inhabit sandy beaches and lay their eggs on sand flats. Males make a scrape where females lay 2-4 eggs. Pairs nest in isolation, so it is not expected to see multiple pairs together. Wilson’s plovers mainly eat fiddler crabs and other marine invertebrates. They can be found along the coast March through October.

Wilson’s Plovers appear to be declining over much of their range. The loss and degradation of nesting and foraging habitats have been severe in the case of this species, which favors habitats that attract beach going tourists and beachfront development. People or dogs trespassing into protected reserves during the nesting season is a frequent cause of nesting failure.

We are fortunate to have a Wilson’s plover nest on BHI this year! 

American Oystercatcher

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Oystercatcher pair at Access 1
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A scrape made by an Oystercatcher pair

We are very excited to have a pair of American Oystercatchers on BHI this year. One of the oystercatchers is banded (“CY1”), which means researchers previously caught the individual and put an identifying marker on his leg. Oystercatchers stand out with their bright orange bills and eyes, black heads, and large bodies. They nest in dunes or on sand flats, and forage for mollusks on tidal flats. They can be found easily by their high pitched squeaks and whistles. They can be found along the coast in all seasons.

The American Oystercatcher is listed as a “species of special concern” in North Carolina. The main threats to the Oystercatcher include its low population totaling only 11,000 birds on the East Coast, loss of beach habitat, recreational disturbance, beach stabilization and predators that thrive in the presence of people. Audubon has identified the American Oystercatcher as a climate threatened bird. 

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Breeding adult incubating their nest
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Nest at the Club with protective signage


These birds love nesting in gravel near people’s houses and other buildings. This year, a pair decided to nest in front of the Bald Head Club! Killdeer are dark brown with two black bands and short bills. Parents are known to draw predators away from their nests by faking injuries and flying away. Despite declines in some urbanized areas, Killdeer are still widespread and abundant.

What can you do to help? 

  1. Don’t cross the ropes indicating bird nesting areas
  2. Keep your dogs away from the nesting areas – on leash as much as possible
  3. Watch your step- there could be bird nests outside of the roped off area
  4. Call the BHI Conservancy Wildlife Emergency hotline (910)-457-0089 x5 if you have a concern about an injured or misplaced bird or nest

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