Port Tampa Bay celebrates a historically successful migratory bird nesting season. In 2020, one of the port’s two dredge material management areas and spoil islands had the greatest diversity of nesting shorebird species than any other spot in the state. The spoil island, called 3D, hosted more than 4,100 pairs of nesting birds made up of several species of tern (including the Least Tern), American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, and others. The port’s spoil island just to the north, 2D, saw 10 pairs of American Oystercatchers nest along its shoreline and fledge four chicks.
The port’s spoil islands provide protected nesting habitat for rare species to complete their reproductive cycle. Each year, the islands become one of the bay area’s prime nesting sites, hosting thousands of nesting migratory birds.
In addition to the active dredge material management islands, Fantasy Island and the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary hosted over 4,800 pairs of nesting wading birds, pelicans and cormorants. Over 15 different species raised young on these islands including birds listed by the State of Florida as “threatened” such as Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill and Little Blue Heron.
“Hillsborough Bay and the islands owned and managed by Port Tampa Bay continue to protect a great number and diversity of Florida’s most iconic bird species. These islands truly are sanctuaries where the birds can raise young without fear of disturbance,” explains Audubon’s Sanctuary Manager, Mark Rachal.
Throughout bird nesting season, Port Tampa Bay and Audubon’s Warden encouraged recreational boaters to be respectful and aware of wildlife because globally significant populations of migratory birds made the port’s spoil islands their summer home in Hillsborough Bay. The official nesting season ran from April 1 through August 31 and represents a cooperative effort between Port Tampa Bay, Audubon Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other local, state, and federal agencies.
“Port Tampa Bay takes pride in our role as an environmental leader in the state of Florida. We remain committed to the health of Tampa Bay’s estuary and watershed and are encouraged by native species’ ability to thrive on our spoil islands,” explained Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President and CEO.
Visit Port Tampa Bay’s Newsroom to view photos from this year’s historic bird nesting season.
Port Tampa Bay thanks Lorraine Margeson, a USACE Certified Bird Monitor/Independent Contractor, and other volunteers for providing accurate counts of spoil island 3D’s migratory nesting birds and photos of this year’s season.