Page 63 - Discover South Mississippi - Summer, 2023
P. 63

      and, after witnessing the birds’ vulnerability, acted and formed the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society, a non-profit group focused on bird conservation. Those early conservation efforts, led by Judy Toups, established protections in Mississippi
for these birds and laid the groundwork for modern-day conservation programs like Audubon Delta. Today, Audubon utilizes a variety of stewardship actions including signage and fencing, on-site outreach and advocacy with stewards, and the deployment of small, wooden tent-like structures called “chick shelters.” Just like the eggs, the tiny chicks are cryptic and rely on the extra shade to cool off and avoid predators.
Mississippi’s 62 miles of coastline hosts large populations of Least Terns, up to 20 percent of the Gulf population. Numbers are declining, but conservation efforts, including active stewardship, education, and advocacy, will give the Least Terns an increased chance of success and allow future generations the chance to enjoy a fantastic wildlife spectacle on the Mississippi Coast. Come the fall, our little visitors will pack it up and head south for the winter. The beaches will be oddly quiet again, giving us more time to prepare for their arrival the following spring. If you’d like to help protect Mississippi’s Least Terns, please contact
• Keep your distance and respect symbolic fencing and posted areas.
• Stay far enough away that the birds are not reacting to your presence.
• Follow local dog ordinances, and keep pets leashed and away from nesting areas.
• Dispose of trash and fishing line to avoid wildlife entanglement.
• Do not feed the birds. Feeding the birds attracts predators like gulls and crows to nesting areas, which will eat the Least Tern eggs and chicks.
• Avoid fireworks and other noisy activities near the nesting colonies.
• Get involved and become an advocate for the birds.
• Start your morning early by checking the active Least Tern colony map, available at www.
• Make sure to pack your binoculars, spotting scope, and camera. Don’t worry; even if you have no optics, the Least Terns can be easily viewed from the sidewalk along Highway 90. Binoculars can also be purchased locally at Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods in D’Iberville.
• Pack snacks and water or stop at a local coffee shop!
• Head to a location near you and walk until you see ropes, signs, and little white birds.
• Sit, watch, and enjoy the birds. There will be lots of interesting behaviors taking place inside the colonies, including courtship displays, incubation of eggs, and the feeding of the adults’ downy chicks.
• Enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch at one of our nearby Gulfport or Biloxi eateries.
• Head east to Moss Point and spend the afternoon at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. View additional birds along the trails, observation deck, or on the bayou by kayak. Make sure to try the new hummingbird virtual reality experience while at the nature center!
• First thing in the morning, stop by and visit Mockingbird Café in Bay St Louis for some of the best coffee and breakfast treats on the Coast.
• Then, check out the newly revamped Weeks Bayou Nature Trail, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Fontainebleau Trail, all situated in Ocean Springs.

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