, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 949–955 | Cite as

Created versus natural coastal islands: Atlantic waterbird populations, habitat choices, and management implications

  • R. Michael Erwin
  • David H. Allen
  • David Jenkins


Nesting colonial waterbirds along the Atlantic Coast of the United States face a number of landscape-level threats including human disturbance, mammalian predator expansion, and habitat alteration. There have been changes from 1977 to the mid-1990s in use of nesting habitats and populations of a number of seabird species of concern in the region, including black skimmersRynchops niger Linnaeaus, common ternsSterna hirundo Linnaeaus, gull-billed ternsSterna nilotica Linnaeaus, least ternsSterna antillarum Lesson, royal ternsSterna maxima Boddaert, and sandwich ternsSterna sandvicensis Cabot. These species form colonies primarily on the following habitat types: large, sandy barrier or shoal islands, natural estuarine or bay islands (mostly marsh) man-made islands of dredged deposition materials (from navigation channels), and the mainland. Significant changes in the use of the dredged material islands have occurred for these species in New Jersey and North Carolina, but not in Virginia. Population declines and changes in bird habitat use appear to be at least partially associated with the conditions and management of the existing dredged material islands, coastal policy changes associated with creating new dredged material islands, and competing demands for sand for beach augmentation by coastal communities. As these and other coastal habitats become less suitable for colonial waterbirds, other man-made sites, such as, bridges and buildings have become increasingly more important. In regions with intense recreational demands, coastal wildlife managers need to take a more aggressive role in managing natural and man-made habitats areas and as stakeholders in the decision-making process involving dredged materials and beach sand allocation.


Barrier Island Nest Habitat Common Tern Coastal Island Nest Distribution 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Michael Erwin
    • 1
  • David H. Allen
    • 2
  • David Jenkins
    • 3
  1. 1.United States Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesville
  2. 2.North Carolina Wildlife Resources CommissionTrenton
  3. 3.New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife/Nongame ProgramTrenton

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