Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Decoys help birds rebound

"When the birds see a bunch of what appears to be other birds nesting on the island, they say, 'That spot must be good,' " Cameron said. "This particular island has perfect habitat, but the birds just haven't found it on their own."

The island is little more than a sandbar, actually, with shell and occasional scraps of tire tread and fishing net dredged up from the sound. Hardly a paradise.

But such dredge islands offer the kind of bare sand flats and isolation that are disappearing from North Carolina's coast. While some species, such as brown pelicans, have rebounded from near extinction, others, such as black skimmers and common terns that nest on bare beach, are in sharp decline. Populations of black skimmers are down 20 percent, and common terns have declined 66 percent in recent decades, wildlife surveys show.

The birds that nest in colonies on the beach are losing ground to development. And those that do manage to nest face more disturbance from people and predators such as feral cats and raccoons.

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