Wilmington shop employee, Robin Wood, who also leads bird walks for Audubon, discovered a Snowy Plover last Wednesday, at the North End of Wrightsville Beach. He was showing folks the rare and endangered Piping Plovers that winter here and among those birds, was the even rarer Snowy Plover, who should have been somewhere out near Utah. This is only the third confirmed sighting of the Snowy Plover, EVER, in North Carolina


Audubon Biologist Discovers Unusual Bird in North Carolina

While observing a group of rare Piping Plovers near Mason Inlet, Robin Wood, Biological Technician for Audubon North Carolina discovered an even rarer bird for North Carolina: the Snowy Plover, also called the Kentish Plover. The unusual bird was found at the Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area located at the north end of Wrightsville Beach near the Shell Island Resort. According to Harry LeGrand, Vertebrate Zoologist with the NC Natural Heritage Program, the agency that tracks such information, “Snowy Plovers have only been seen twice before in North Carolina and this sighting is the earliest in the year.”

Snowy Plovers are six-inch long shorebirds that feed on tiny animals including insects, crabs and worms found along the sandy shores of marshes, inlets and tidal creeks. Snowy Plovers are a western species in this country, ranging from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Northwest. Owing to the rarity of such a bird in North Carolina word spread quickly through the bird watching and scientific community.

Walker Golder, Deputy Director for Audubon North Carolina went out to photograph and document the sighting. “This is a very significant find and telling evidence of Mason Inlet’s importance to migratory and nesting waterbirds.” Golder said. Audubon oversees the Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area in a partnership with New Hanover County, Wrightsville Beach and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect beach nesting birds and their habitat.

And what is good ecologically is also good economically. Dozens of birders from across the state have already made the trek to Wrightsville Beach in hopes of getting a glimpse of this rare treat to add to their list of birds seen in North Carolina. While there, many stop to buy lunch, dinner and other provisions. And some may decide to stay overnight to enjoy area amenities. The cumulative impact of birders in North Carolina is very significant according to Connie Nelson, Communications Director with the Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Buying bird seed, binoculars and camera equipment is only part of the economic benefit from birders. Restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfast operators, all benefit from the economic contributions bird watchers bring to our community.”

The Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area is included on North Carolina’s new Birding Trail. Birding trail Coordinator Salinda Daley was excited to hear that one of their trail destinations is already well known among the birding community. “Word went out about this single rare bird and people wanted to know how to find it. The NC Birding Trail is designed to help people find their way to great birding sites like Mason Inlet” Daley said. Trail maps for North Carolina’s coastal region are available online at www.ncbirdingtrail.org and a book version will be published later this spring.

For high-resolution photographs of the Snowy Plover at Mason Inlet and information about the Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area and other Audubon North Carolina programs, contact Andy Wood at 910-686-7527 or awood@audubon.org.