Least tern habitat plantings in Mississippi

By Melinda Averhart, Stewardship Manager – Audubon Delta (MS)

This past April, Audubon staff, volunteers, and Gulfport High School students restored habitat along a stretch of recreational beach in Harrison County, Mississippi.

The work took place in a globally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) in Gulfportwhich is vital to the life cycle of a small but mighty bird, the least tern. Each summer, the IBA hosts between 400-500 pairs of breeding Least Terns, and this summer has been no different! Unfortunately, over the last couple of years the fencing, signage, and dune habitat were severely damaged by hurricanes and tropical storms.

Thanks to a grant from Restore America’s Estuaries, who partnered with Citgo Petroleum, a total of 2,500 new beach plants were installed to help stabilize the mainland beach habitat.

Audubon Delta was happy to work in partnership with Gulfport High School and was able to provide a field-based opportunity to a diverse and inclusive group of students who were eager to help build back their community’s resilience.

In addition to the plantings, Audubon designed and produced “Dune Restoration” signs that will stay up year-round to protect the new vegetation and habitat. Audubon and the local community look forward to seeing the benefits these new beach plantings will bring and to leading additional restoration projects at the Gulfport IBA.