Media Releases

The Birds are Back in Town

As we welcome the return of our coastal birds for the breeding season, we need your help to keep them safe.

DURHAM, NC—Spring migration and early nesting birds are starting to ramp up on the North Carolina coast, with Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, and others, beginning their courting and nesting rituals on the Cape Fear River and beyond. Soon, Least Terns, American Oystercatchers, and Wilson’s Plovers will be returning to Lea-Hutaff Island, an undeveloped barrier island near Wilmington. It’s important to keep our coastal birds in mind this spring and share the shore in time for the breeding season. 

Last year was a tough year for birds on our coast, as predators, storms, and human disturbance made it hard for parents to raise and fledge chicks. This is part of an increasing trend in our state, with a recent state-wide bird survey revealing population declines for many colonial waterbirds, including Black Skimmers. 

Nearly 50,000 nests were counted last year as part of the 2023 Colonial Waterbird Nesting Census. The census showed continued declines for species like the Royal Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Egret, and mostly notably the Black Skimmer, which saw a 47 percent decline in nesting pairs compared to historical averages for the species. 

The survey highlights how important our management work is along the coast and gives us an even greater incentive to ensure that spring migrants and those birds beginning their nesting rituals have the space and time they need to complete important life events, including breeding nesting, and raising chicks. 

“We need your help to ensure that birds have a safe place to land this breeding season,” said Coastal Biologist Lindsay Addison. “We’ve already been busy putting up postings, monitoring early nesters, and cleaning up sanctuaries so they’re ready for the arrival of our birds.” 

The annual nesting sanctuary closure window is from March 1 to Sept. 15, which helps both early and late-season nesters like Brown Pelicans and Black Skimmers, respectively.  

Share the Shore 

Staff and volunteers have already posted nesting sanctuaries from the Cape Fear River to Pamlico Sound. These postings are meant to keep people and dogs away from nesting birds 

If you come across a posting, make sure to keep a good distance, as getting too close can spook parents away from their nests, leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators and the elements. Give birds space whenever you see them on the shore or behind a posting. If you notice an agitated bird—flying at you, calling, or pacing—this could be a sign that you are too close to a nest or chicks. Move back so they can reunite with their family. 

If you’d like to get a closer look at our nesting birds in the company of an expert, consider visiting our sanctuary at the south end of Wrightsville Beach. Free, guided bird walks begin in May and occur every Monday morning at 9 am until August 15 on the south end of Wrightsville Beach. 

Media Contact: Brittany Salmons, 

About Audubon North Carolina

Audubon North Carolina, a state program of the National Audubon Society, has offices in Durham, Boone, Corolla, and Wilmington. Learn more at and on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.​ The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

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