Crab Bank Renourishment

Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, and Black Skimmers all nest on Crab Bank. Photo: Julie Ann Schultz

On average, seabird and shorebird populations have dropped an astonishing 70 percent.  With coastal development narrowing the nesting options for these birds – big favorites in South Carolina – every spot of viable habitat is increasingly precious.   

That’s why were so excited about an upcoming opportunity to “renourish” Crab Bank.

Crab Bank is a narrow slice of sand in Charleston harbor that can support as many as 5,000 nesting birds in one season.  It’s one of just five Seabird Sanctuaries protected by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and it’s also designated a Globally Important Bird Area by Audubon.

But wind and waves have taken a toll on Crab Bank.  Today, just a few hundred birds can nest on this shrinking crescent of sand.

So it’s big news that the U.S. Corps of Engineers might choose Crab Bank to receive sand they’ll soon dredge up to deepen and widen Charleston harbor.  In 2016, more than 200 Audubon members and friends urged the Corps to make Crab Bank a top priority.

If Crab Bank is chosen, it will be great news for birds that have nested here historically.  They include Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, American Oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers, Willets, Tricolored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, and a variety of terns (royal, least, sandwich, and gull-billed).

Renourishment will also benefit birds that forage on Crab Bank during the winter, including Dunlins, Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Double-crested Cormorants, and multiple gulls and plovers.

Note: Adding sand to a beach isn’t always good for birds.  At Captain Sam’s Spit it would destroy critical habitat.  But at Crab Bank it’s cool – it would rebuild habitat that’s now subtidal and of no use to birds.

Our thanks to the Audubon members and friends who took action on this issue.  We’ll keep you in the loop as events unfold!

Staff contact:  Nolan Schillerstrom,