The Department of Conservation and Waterways maintains a biological staff trained to monitor and protect a range of endangered and threatened shorebird species nesting on Town of Hempstead beaches, preserves and marsh islands. During the spring and summer months, staff observe, monitor and fence off historical nesting areas to boost breeding success. Protected species include the American Oystercatcher, Piping Plover, Common and Least Tern, and Black Skimmer. Coordination with other Town departments and volunteer groups has grown over the years, helping to increase awareness of nesting shorebirds and their critical habitat. In 2021, the Town of Hempstead received Audubon New York’s first-ever Share the Shore Award for our Department’s dedication to protecting shorebirds for over four decades. Recognized as an exemplary program, the Department’s efforts serve as a model for other coastal communities aiming to protect and enhance shorebird populations.
The Town of Hempstead has been monitoring American Oystercatchers since they began nesting in New York in the early 1990s. Major threats to oystercatcher populations include loss of habitat and climate change. While Town beaches offer a space for recreation, Town staff are able to protect oystercatchers by providing protected areas for nesting shorebirds. On the Town of Hempstead's barrier island there are a growing number of oystercatcher pairs. This year Long Beach Island supported 70 nesting pairs, who fledged a total of 42 chicks. A total of 45 young and adult birds were banded this season. The Town of Hempstead also worked with the City of Long Beach to band their oystercatcher chicks this year. The unique band codes given to these birds are now part of a global database. Re-sightings of these banded birds will help identify important breeding sites, wintering sites, and provide information on oystercatcher movements. The Town works with partners who contribute to a successful breeding season, including Audubon NY and South Shore Audubon, and the Town thanks those partners for their support and collaboration towards improving oystercatcher productivity .
Piping plover pair numbers exceeded previous years this season with a record number of 23 nesting pairs. A federally threatened and New York State endangered species, the piping plover has been monitored on Town of Hempstead beaches since the 1980s, and numbers have been gradually increasing since. Plovers lay a small camouflaged nest in a shell-lined depression in the sand, and their nesting areas are protected by Town biologists. In addition, trained biology staff provide supplemental nest protection by installing predator guards around the nests, in order to protect the eggs from predators such as feral cats, raccoons, crows, and gulls
Black Skimmers nest annually on Town of Hempstead beaches in sub colonies often exceeding a total of 1000 individuals, making it the largest colony in New York State. The Department of Conservation and Waterways is currently conducting a research project in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma to deploy GPS transmitters on selected Black Skimmers to analyze local movements, diet characterization, and winter migration and ecology. Juvenile Black Skimmers are banded annually as a part of this research project.
Since the 1990s, Department biologists have been banding shorebirds and other avian species annually in an effort to track migration, site fidelity, life span, and productivity. Many shorebirds nesting on Town of Hempstead beaches sport a combination of metal and colored bands with alphanumeric codes on their legs. Banded shorebirds include Black Skimmers, American Oystercatchers, and Common Terns. With help from cooperating agencies and volunteer groups, many of our banded birds are resighted along the East coast and reported back to staff through the Bird Banding Lab portal.