Tides, Storm Decimate Charleston Pelican Nesting Ground

Aug 29, 2017

Last spring, there were approximately 500 pelican nests on Crab Bank, a sandbar near Charleston’s Shem Creek where pelicans and other seabirds have safely bred for years.  Erosion has gradually reduced the area of Crab Bank, but a storm and high tides in May combined to nearly obliterate the breeding ground.  Now only about 45 pelican nests remain, with no nests left of the roughly 1000 terns that also nested on the bank. 

Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists Janet Thibault and Felicia Sanders have kept up with the plight of the pelicans, and while they are distressed about the displacement of these iconic birds, they see help on the horizon.  They’re meeting with a number  of groups to raise funds to match a federal grant that would allow the bank to be increased to about 80 acres ( from its present area of less than one acre). 

The sand would come from dredging scheduled to soon begin in Charleston Harbor by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Thibault thinks the pelicans and terns can make a full recovery if the dredging project is funded.  Sanders tells us that Crab Bank is more than merely a nesting place for birds, but a place where humans can get close enough (in boats and kayaks) to learn about the birds without disturbing them, and become more conservation-minded, which can result in more support for conservation of coastal birds around the world.