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New Sea Bird Habitat a Success

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Bird lovers are celebrating this spring with the arrival of terns and gulls that traditionally nest on an island off the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel complex.  Construction threatened to displace them, but the state has created new habitat that’s proving popular.

Populations of sea birds have declined steadily as development deprived them of nesting sites along the coast.  They prefer islands where they’re safe from predators according to Mike Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy.

“There are cats, raccoons, other species which will kill these birds and their chicks,” he explains.

When the state bulldozed the birds’ usually nesting site, as part of the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel expansion, bird lovers organized and asked the state to provide new habitat. Governor Northam stepped in, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries proposed using Ft. Wool – a small island near where the birds had been nesting.  They cleared rats and trees from the site, brought in sand and gravel to make the birds comfortable, placed decoys on the land and broadcast bird calls through portable speakers.

Now, Parr says, that effort is paying off.

“They’re really starting to take to it.  They’re settling in, and it’s very, very exciting.  We were hopeful that this would happen, but birds have minds of their own, and until they actually start nesting, it’s never for certain.”

Long-term, he hopes the state will build the birds their own island – large enough to accommodate even more  terns and gulls.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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