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Altamaha Basin > Hydrology > Water Quality > Environmental Threats > Human Impacts >
       Cultural Features > Coastal Habitats > Tributaries > Plants > Animals > Sapelo Island
Coastal Habitats > Beaches > Estuaries > Barrier Islands > Marshes > Tides > Recreation
General Interest Site

Animal Life on the Beach

Birds such as the American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), Wilsonís Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica), Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) and Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) nest on some Georgia beaches, but the number and success rate of nests on Sapelo Island and in Georgia in general is lower than that found in nesting areas in adjacent states. This may be due to a shortage of suitable habitat.

Nesting shorebirds prefer nesting on a sparsely vegetated wide berm above the high tide line, and although Georgiaís beaches are wide and gently sloping, there are not many flat areas above the high tide level. Most of the nests that were observed on Sapelo failed to produce hatchlings. Many were disrupted by raccoons and ghost crabs, and others were inundated by an unusually high tide or were abandoned for unknown reasons. It appeared that there were occasionally good nesting years when hatching rates were somewhat higher, but in any case, shorebird nesting is an activity which is highly sensitive to disturbance from natural events, and one that needs to be protected from human intrusion as much as possible.

Atlantic loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting on Georgia beaches is another risky and often unsuccessful activity. Georgia Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring nesting activity and success rate since 1987 on Sapelo, and the number of nests laid during that time ranged from 24 in 1993 to 79 in 1995. The average number of nests per year during the 10-year monitoring period is 50, with an average of 120 eggs/nest. Hatching success has ranged from 0 to 90%, with the main causes of mortality being predation on the eggs by raccoons and ghost crabs; erosion because of storms, unusually high tides or poor site selection by the female turtle; and drowning of the nest by an unusually high water table after periods of heavy rain.