Port Tampa Bay reminds boaters to be mindful as migratory birds nesting season begins

- Port Tampa Bay, along with Audubon Florida, encourages recreational boaters to be respectful and aware of wildlife during the 2023-nesting season. Globally significant populations of migratory birds nest on the port’s two dredge material management areas and spoil islands in Hillsborough Bay throughout the summer. Both dredge islands are under the oversight of the Migratory Bird Protection Interagency Committee. The official nesting season runs from April 1 through August 31 and represents a cooperative effort between Port Tampa Bay, Audubon Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other local, state, and federal agencies.

The islands provide a protected nesting habitat for rare and threatened species, including American Oystercatchers and Least Terns, to complete their reproductive cycle. Each year, the islands become one of the bay area’s prime nesting sites, hosting thousands of nesting birds. In recent years, the port’s dredge material management areas and spoil islands experienced the state’s greatest diversity of nesting shorebird species. The spoil island, called 3D, hosted nearly 4,100 pairs of nesting birds made up of several species of tern (including the Least Tern), American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, and others. The port’s spoil island just to the north, 2D, saw American Oystercatchers, which are a threatened species.

“Port Tampa Bay is a proven environmental leader both within the maritime industry and in our community. Our award-winning environmental programs, including our commitment to the success and health of our nesting bird population, is of extreme importance to our port community. We are committed to upholding the health and sustainability of our area waters and welcome the thousands of migratory nesting birds who make our spoil islands their home each summer. We encourage everyone to do their part to protect the species that thrive there,” explained Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President and CEO.

“Hillsborough Bay continues to be one of the most important bird nesting sites in the entire state. Audubon looks forward to another productive year for some of Florida’s most iconic birds thanks to the cooperation and stewardship of the Port and our many partners,” said Mark Rachal, Sanctuary Manager, Audubon Florida.