Five years after conservation groups launched a large-scale, coordinated effort to recover the imperiled American Oystercatcher, the species’ population has stabilized and begun to increase, according to an aerial survey conducted in 2013.
ARLINGTON, VA | January 28, 2014
Ten years ago, the charismatic, orange-billed shorebird was threatened by habitat loss and human encroachment. A comprehensive survey that year showed about 10,900 total birds and a rapidly declining population. The numbers kept dropping until 2009, when a coalition of 35 groups from Canada to Texas mobilized to protect the species. A survey completed in 2013 found about 11,200 birds. The coalition includes The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the College of William and Mary.”This kind of conservation success is extraordinary, especially in the shorebird world,” said Shiloh Schulte, a scientist at the Manomet Center and coordinator of the American Oystercatcher Working Group. “This was a targeted and coordinated approach to conservation involving 35 organizations, federal, state and private. We were hoping to see some signs of recovery with this survey, but the results show the population has already exceeded the 2003 mark.” The aerial survey covered more than 9,000 miles of barrier islands and salt marshes from Long Island to the Mexico border and the results were officially announced last month at the annual American Oystercatcher Working Group meeting in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. “In Virginia we have seen a 9 percent increase in the number of breeding pairs on the state’s barrier islands since 2009 as the result of increased oystercatcher conservation efforts,” said Alexandra Wilke, a shorebird biologist with The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “Thanks to the support, guidance and leverage of the Working Group and partnership with both the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have successfully acquired two National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants over the past five years. These grants have helped support these efforts in coastal Virginia, such as increased stewardship activities and habitat management for oystercatchers and other beach nesting shorebirds.”The coalition includes Audubon Connecticut, Audubon Louisiana, Audubon North Carolina, BiodiversityWorks, Canadian Wildlife Service, City University of New York, Clemson University, College of William and Mary, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Massachusetts Audubon, Nantucket Conservation Foundation, National Audubon Society, National Park Service, New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, New York City Audubon, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Rutgers University, South Carolina DNR, Texas A&M University, The Nature Conservancy, Trent University, University of Georgia, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Wildlife Conservation Society, U.S. Geological Survey and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.