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Aerial Counts Of Seabird Colonies In South Carolina

Aerial Counts of Seabird Colonies in South Carolina

Royal Tern chick photographed while monitoring in North Carolina. Bonestitch, Creative Commons

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has been censusing nesting seabirds annually since the 1970’s. Nine species of seabirds, including Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, and Black Skimmers, regularly nest in South Carolina in large colonies of hundreds to thousands of pairs. Each spring and summer, staff biologists survey islands to determine abundance and distribution of nesting birds of each species. Biologists fly over DNR Seabird Sanctuaries to photograph nesting areas and count seabird nests from compiled photos. This season, DNR also obtained aerial images from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, drone) at several properties. Biologists counted 6,109 Brown Pelican,12,983 Royal Tern, 3,562 Sandwich Tern, and 1,049 Black Skimmer nests in South Carolina. All of these colonial seabirds are listed as Highest Priority Conservation Status under the South Carolina Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. For more information on these coastal birds and the work DNR does for these species, check the DNR Coastal Bird webpage.

Contacts: Felicia Sanders,, Mary-Catherine Martin,, Janet Thibault,, South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources

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