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SCDNR: Temporary complete closure set at Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary

May 07, 2024

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is implementing a complete temporary closure of Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary to protect the state’s nesting pelican population.

Last week, biologists completed an initial survey of the state’s nesting brown pelican colonies, which are typically restricted to a few small islands and sandbars along the coast. The surveys showed both Bird Key-Stono and Tomkins Island Seabird Sanctuaries as inactive for pelican colonies this year, with most of South Carolina’s pelicans nesting on Deveaux Bank.

At the same time, storms in late 2023 (Hurricane Idalia and a December nor’easter) caused Deveaux Bank to erode by as much as 75 percent in the last year. In light of the magnitude of Deveaux’s colony and the fact that the nesting birds are squeezing into ever-shrinking habitat, the agency is temporarily closing the entirety of the sanctuary to safeguard a colony that is critical to pelican reproduction not only for South Carolina but also for the region.

Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary is a protected and critical seabird habitat located in the mouth of the North Edisto River that is owned and managed by the SCDNR. The sandbar remains an important nesting and roosting site for thousands of seabirds and shorebirds.

In 2023, biologist counted more than 3,000 pelican nests on Deveaux, three-quarters of South Carolina’s population which made it the largest pelican colony on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Thousands of pelicans are now nesting on Deveaux, perhaps up to 3,000 yet again. An aerial survey totaling exact nesting numbers will be conducted later this month.

In addition to its significance for nesting seabirds, Deveaux is also a critical stopover site for tens of thousands of declining migratory shorebirds such as the federally listed piping plover and the whimbrel. In the last decade, research has shown that Deveaux Bank is the largest known roosting site in the world for whimbrel – thus the island is important on a hemispheric level to the survival of this curlew species. Deveaux Bank is also one of the largest roosting site in the Southeast for the federally threatened red knot. Shorebirds and seabirds continue to be of conservation concern and are declining faster than most types of birds.

Because of Deveaux Bank’s regional importance to many birds of high conservation concern, all of the island, including the intertidal shoals, is temporary closed. Seasonal closures will be evaluated and adjusted to ensure protection of coastal bird habitat. In addition, no dogs are allowed on any part of the property at any time. SCDNR officials have posted signs on the high ground of the island indicating closed areas. The interior, intertidal sandflats are not able to support signage, but these areas also remain closed to all landing and foot traffic, as they serve as critical feeding and roosting areas for a wide variety of birds. Officials ask the public to abide by the closures and report any violations to the SCDNR Law Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-922-5431. Failure to comply can result in fines up to $465 and 30 days in jail (code 50-11-860).

For more information about SCDNR Seabird Sanctuaries, please visit: SCDNR - Coastal Birds in South Carolina - Seabird Sanctuaries.