Bird islands important for wildlife, biologist test some for GenX

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Nine islands along the Cape Fear River are home to thousands of birds. No humans are allowed, but Thursday we got to ride along with one of the people who patrols and monitors the bird islands.

From Ferry Slip Island to South Pelican Island Coastal Biologist with Audubon Lindsay Addison said there are about twenty species of birds that inhabit the nine bird islands.

“It’s a very special place for birds,” Addison said. “Back in the 1960s 1970s, Dr. James Parnell of UNCW was really the first guy that kind of started to realize how important these islands were for birds.”

It is a place that is off limits to you and me.

“Even though we don’t mean any harm and we might want to land on these islands because they are so amazing and we’re so curious,” Addison said.

Addison said people cannot anchor or walk on the bird islands.

“We’re much bigger than they are,” Addison said. “We look like big scary pink monsters to them, so when we approach their nesting area, the adults tend to fly up leaving their eggs and chicks exposed to different types of threats which could cause adults to abandon the colony site all together.”

Addison said the islands on the Cape Fear River are home to almost a third of the state’s bird population.

If you do see someone walking along one of the nine bird islands, it is probably Addison tagging birds, counting or monitoring them, or making sure no one else is walking around the island.

“The islands are closed to landing from April first to August 31 and that’s for protection of these birds as they raise their young,” Addison said.

Addison said there are not many places like this in the country.

“Although there are bird islands all along the coast, there’s not a lot of places for them and so that’s why it’s very important that we keep places that they can use that do have the right combination of characteristics that we keep them safe for the birds,” Addison said.

Addison also said they have sent a couple of young birds that died of natural causes to a graduate student who is going to test them for GenX.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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