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Maryland Partnership Launches Nesting Platform Initiative For Endangered Waterbirds

OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) -- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, and Maryland Coastal Bays Program partnered to create a nesting platform for Maryland's endangered waterbirds.

The partners will research and monitor the nesting platform, an artificial island that is an effort to preserve the birds.

The populations of the Common Tern, Royal Tern, and Black Skimmer have declined by 90-95% since the 1980s because of shoreline erosion and sea level rising in the coastal bays.

The Audubon said the species is losing its natural nesting habitats: barren beaches and small islands. The partnership undertook a pilot project this year to establish an artificial island that imitates a nesting beach. Officials said the approach has worked elsewhere to help restore populations.

"Island-nesting terns and skimmers in the Coastal Bays are in trouble and are on the cusp of being extirpated – or wiped out – from Maryland as breeding species," explains Director of Bird Conservation Dr. David Curson of Audobon Mid-Atlantic."As suitable habitat for these birds dwindles from effects of a changing climate like shoreline erosion and sea-level rise, it's more important than ever to do what we can to keep them as part of the coastal ecosystem.

The islands are wood platforms loaded with crushed clamshell, anchored in the coastal bays. The nesting platforms will have audio recordings of birdcalls and other social cues to attract the birds.

"In the late 1980s, there were approximately 3000 pairs of Common Tern and 300 pairs of Black Skimmer nesting in Maryland. Now there are fewer than five pairs of Black Skimmer and only 500 pairs of Common Tern that nest in Maryland each summer," said Dave Brinker, Maryland DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service. "The nesting platform project is an attempt to stop this decline and retain nesting terns and skimmers in the Maryland coastal bays."

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