Shorebird Network Designates Georgia Barrier Islands as 100th Site

Georgia's barrier islands feature a mix of sand, mud and salt marshes, ideal habitats for shorebirds.  Photo by Brad WinnGeorgia’s barrier islands feature a mix of sand, mud and salt marshes, ideal habitats for shorebirds. Photo by Brad Winn

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) recently designated nearly 80,000 acres along the Georgia coast as its 100th significant site for shorebirds. The site, known as the Georgia Barrier Islands, was considered a landscape of hemispheric significance.

Areas shown in dark green include the landscape of hemispheric significance of the Georgia Barrier Islands.Areas shown in dark green include the landscape of hemispheric significance of the Georgia Barrier Islands. Map by Georgia Shorebird Alliance

The islands are owned and managed by a diverse group of private and public entities, many of which have committed to WHSRN designation. The Georgia Shorebird Alliance (GSA), a collaborative group of biologists, land managers, and organizations dedicated to protecting Georgia’s shorebirds, submitted the nomination. Commitment to the nomination comes from members of the GSA, including the National Parks Service (Cumberland Island National Seashore, Fort Pulaski National Monument), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex) and the private company Little Cumberland, St. Catherine’s, and Little St. Simons Islands and Cannon’s Point Reserve and Musgrove Reserve on St. Simons Island. Together they comprise 79,709 acres (32,257 hectares).

The islands are home to more than 30 percent of the biogeographic population of close the Red Knot and the Great Lakes breeding population of the Piping Plover. Based on a band resighting study, the stopover population of close The southward migrating Red Knot has been estimated at 23,400 birds, while up to 13,775 birds have been documented using the area during the northward migration.

The area also supports more than 10% of the biogeographic populations of American Oystercatcher (120 breeding pairs, 1,200 wintering individuals), Short-billed Dowitcher (maximum number of 14,608 individuals) and Black-bellied Plover (high number of 10,364 at mid-winter).

Other noteworthy features include one of the largest spring gatherings of Whimbrels in North America and impressive numbers of wintering shorebirds of many species.

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GeorgiaThe barrier islands support critical habitat and food resources for federally protected Red Knots. Photo by Brad Winn

The new WHSRN landscape supports a variety of habitats important to shorebirds, including island beaches and dunes, offshore sandbars, and large expanses of sand and mud exposed at low tide. One of the most remarkable attributes of the landscape is the number of natural creeks without built channels. All inland sides of the barrier islands include extensive salt marshes, which provide critical foraging habitat for shorebirds throughout the year.

“As the federal partner involved in the nomination, we recognize the value of Georgia’s diverse habitats for the protection of humans and wildlife,” said Chuck Hayes, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Savannah River Complex. “F&WS is committed to continuing to protect the habitats necessary for the survival of these species.”

“This designation as a ‘Landscape of Hemispheric Significance’ by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve System is another strong endorsement of Georgia’s beautiful coastline and will help keep conservation efforts at the forefront in region,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GEORGIA. “I commend everyone who has worked to help protect Georgia’s barrier islands and natural habitats.”

“WHSRN’s recognition should be celebrated by all who know and care about the land, water and wildlife of this state,” said Brad Winn, former program manager for the non-coastal conservation section. game of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and now director of Shorebird. Habitat Management at Manomet (a non-profit organization that champions best practices in conservation, corporate sustainability, and science education, and home of WHSRN). “Whether you live in Atlanta and have a second home in Richmond Hill, grew up hunting and fishing in Macintosh County, or spending a few weeks visiting Jekyll Island as a tourist from New York , this coveted recognition should make you smile with pride for a job well done. Business owners, landowners, tourist boards and nature lovers should celebrate that the Georgian coast supports and protects the habitat used by so many shorebirds for all to see and enjoy. to profit from.

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With the addition of the Georgia Barrier Islands, there are now 100 WHSRN sites in 15 countries covering a total of 36.9 million acres (15 million hectares) of shorebird habitat across the Americas. Georgia Barrier Islands becomes only the third WHSRN Landscape, and the first to include an existing WHSRN site, the Altamaha River Deltawhich was designated a site of regional significance in 1999.

The Georgia Barrier Islands WHSRN nomination process was part of a larger North American project under the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI), led by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC AMBI project worked to identify and designate important sites for the red knot (close And roselar subspecies) and the Semipalmated Sandpiper, and to engage communities in the conservation of Arctic-nesting shorebirds.

“Our coast is unlike any other place on earth,” said Megan Desrosiers, CEO of One Hundred Miles, the Georgia nonprofit that led the nomination. “Today’s announcement confirms to the rest of the world what we already know in Georgia: our 100 miles are a wonder of the world – worthy of our pride and worthy of our protection. It is an honor to work with landowners, governments and agencies involved in the conservation of our world’s most special habitats.

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