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Port Tampa Bay is pleased to introduce CEO Corner, from President and CEO Paul Anderson. CEO Corner is a monthly blog that takes a high-level look at issues that affect the maritime community, as well as Tampa Bay.

CEO Corner: Port Tampa Bay plays an important role in protecting nesting birds

Hello and welcome to CEO Corner, a monthly blog that takes a deep dive into issues that impact our maritime community. In this edition, I would like to talk about the state’s most significant site for nesting bird populations, which is part of the Port Tampa Bay footprint.

Port Tampa Bay, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, manages two dredge material islands, which have the greatest diversity of nesting shorebird species than any other spot in the state. I recently visited the islands, along with Jeff Liechty of the Florida Audubon. As of June 10, the islands called 3D and 2D hosted more than 3,925 pairs of nesting birds made up of several species. Some of the birds we were able to observe during my visit included Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers. Additionally, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Caspian Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Least terns, Black-necked Stilts, Mottled Duck, and the Black-bellied Whistling Duck have inhabited the islands. One of the highlights of my visit was spotting several fledglings and chicks, some of which were just days old and others that were preparing to take flight!

The port’s spoil islands provide protected nesting habitat for rare species to complete their reproductive cycle. Each year, the islands become one of the bay area’s prime nesting sites, hosting thousands of nesting migratory birds.

In addition to the active dredge material islands, Fantasy Island and the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary hosted numerous pairs of nesting wading birds, Brown Pelicans, and Cormorants. These islands have hosted nesting birds listed by the State of Florida as “threatened” such as Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and Little Blue Heron.  

Throughout bird nesting season, Port Tampa Bay and Audubon’s Warden encouraged recreational boaters to be respectful and aware of wildlife because globally significant populations of migratory birds made the port’s spoil islands their summer home in Hillsborough Bay. 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.

“Audubon and the Port continue their long-term partnership to manage some of the most important bird nesting islands in the state. The Port’s stewardship of these special places goes a long way towards securing the long-term success of some of Florida’s most iconic and rare birds,” explained Mark Rachal, Sanctuary Manager of Florida Audubon.

Port Tampa Bay takes pride in our role as an environmental leader in the state of Florida and we remain committed to the health of Tampa Bay’s estuary and watershed and are encouraged by native species’ ability to thrive on our dredge material islands. 

Port Tampa Bay thanks Lorraine Margeson, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Certified Bird Monitor/Independent Contractor, and other volunteers for providing accurate counts of dredge island 3D’s migratory nesting birds and photos from throughout the season!