American Oystercatcher Monitoring

Author: Jillian Daly, NC Coastal Reserve Communications Specialist

The North Carolina Coastal Reserve consists of 10 sites. Many birds call at least one of the 10 sites home, while many others use them as resting stops along the Atlantic Flyway.

This spring and summer, at Masonboro Island Reserve, the nine-mile stretch of beach was home to many nesting shorebirds. Our 2023 shorebird monitoring technician, Kaitlyn Kuykendall, walked the nine-mile beach of Masonboro Island multiple times a week to collect statistics on the reserve site’s nesting shorebirds. Using her detail-oriented eyes and binoculars, she located nesting shorebirds, their nests, and the fledglings. She recognized that the work is challenging, but also rewarding, especially once she sees a chick that she has been observing finally fly for the first time! 

Her work focused specifically on monitoring the reproductive success of the American Oystercatcher. Due to the vulnerable location of its nests, mostly on the ocean beach, it has experienced historically low reproductive success. By monitoring nest success each shorebird nesting season, we can better understand population trends and changes in nesting preferences that help inform management strategies and protected areas.

By August 31st, she observed:

Though American Oystercatchers are the most abundant species viewed at Masonboro Island Reserve, other species nest on Masonboro Island as well. These include Willets, Least Terns, and Wilson's Plovers. Kaitlyn did spot some Black Skimmers later in the season, who seemed to be setting up a small colony, however, they left after a couple of weeks without actually nesting or raising young.

Thanks again, Kaitlyn, for all your hard work this season!

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