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Alabama Coastal Bird Stewardship Program
The Alabama Coastal Bird Stewardship Program (ALCBSP) has provided critical protection and monitoring for our state’s sensitive beach-nesting bird populations since 2017. Administered by Alabama Audubon staff at both our Birmingham headquarters and in our Mobile-based field office, the program utilizes local volunteers to monitor and enhance the breeding success of several species of concern on the beaches of Mobile and Baldwin Counties. This work complements similar National Audubon Society initiatives across the Gulf of Mexico, including programs in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys
Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys (ACBS) provide scientists with valuable data for addressing conservation needs of coastal waterbirds along the gulf coast. Originally established by the National Audubon Society in response to the 2010’s Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, ACBS continues to help conservation planners assess threats and identify target species experiencing population declines.
ACBS provides baseline data from which to compare future population trends for all coastal residing species and can serve as a bioindicator of coastal ecosystem health and population effects by human-induced threats as well as natural disturbances such as hurricanes, flooding, or storm surge. The ACBS program has engaged thousands of volunteers since launching in 2011. Frequent surveys during migratory and winter periods are not only used to understand how waterbirds use coastal habitats locally and across the northern Gulf of Mexico but are consistent with monitoring priorities developed by national waterbird and shorebird conservation plans. In addition, ACBS data aligns with International Shorebird Surveys, the primary tool for understanding migratory shorebird population trends across the Western Hemisphere.
Alabama’s coastal habitats (beaches, marshes, and islands) provide critical nesting, foraging, and overwintering grounds for many species of shorebirds and seabirds. These habitats represent highly dynamic ecosystems that are particularly sensitive to erosion, sea-level rise, annual weather and tidal regimes, climate change, and human development and disturbance. Coastal birds, and especially those that nest on beachfronts, are particularly threatened by these pressures and are exceptionally sensitive to human recreational disturbances. In addition, mammalian predators have proven to be highly detrimental to Alabama’s beach-nesting bird populations, with particularly dire consequences for colonial species like terns and skimmers.
Surveying & Monitoring
Alabama Audubon staff and volunteers continue to collect ACBS data using standardized protocols at eighteen sites across Mobile and Baldwin Counties during designated survey pulses in the fall, winter, and spring. All coastal species are documented during surveys, with focus on the populations of Alabama’s eleven priority species (Wilson’s plover, snowy plover, piping plover, American oystercatcher, red knot, sanderling, short-billed dowitcher, least tern, black skimmer, reddish egret, and brown pelican).
The stewardship portion of the program provides outreach and beach-nesting bird awareness by engaging the public through volunteer opportunities and stewardship. Coastal bird stewards act as the eyes, ears, and voice for nesting birds by maintaining the health and safety of nesting areas by the use of symbolic fencing and public outreach. Volunteer coastal stewards guide beachgoers and other threats away from these sensitive nesting areas, ultimately leading to increased nest success. Additionally, stewards engage the public by providing scope-based viewing opportunities into nesting areas, observing adults incubating eggs and/or feeding small, flightless chicks from a safe distance. The ALCBSP works directly towards conserving these species during their annual breeding cycles and promotes public awareness to ensure their survivorship. They include: least tern, black skimmer, snowy plover, Wilson’s plover, American oystercatcher, and reddish egret. Monitoring critical nesting sites, assessing nest success, and determining breeding densities provides insight on Alabama breeding populations for these species, all of which are listed as Alabama Species of Conservation Concern.
Click here to learn about ways you can get involved with our coastal programs!
For more information, contact Alabama Audubon’s Coastal Coordinator.
Find out more about our coastal partnerships here.
Alabama Audubon’s ALCBSP and ACBS programs are funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund with additional support from Alabama State Lands Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Northern Gulf Coastal Program.
Coastal Blog: Scope on the Coast