Volunteer Steward Dewees Island2

Shorebird Stewards

Protecting shorebirds and seabirds through education and volunteerism.
Photo: Nolan Schillerstrom / Audubon

Shorebird Stewards

Protecting shorebirds and seabirds through education and volunteerism.

 Project Goal

Well-trained volunteer shorebird stewards protect shorebirds and shorebirds during their breeding season by educating beach-goers on high foot traffic days. This project aims to protect coastal birds by achieving full life cycle conservation and create an improved conservation culture in coastal communities by shifting public perception of SC beaches from recreation only sites to shared spaces for humans and wildlife. In our experience, when people accept and understand the needs of the birds, they ofen have a deeper appreciation for our coastal system as a whole. Volunteering as a shorebird steward is a rewarding way to make a difference to helping fast declining shorebird and seabird populations recover.

As a coastal bird steward, your job is to provide educational information to South Carolina’s beachgoers, and explain how common disturbances can impact nesting, migratory, and wintering species that depend on our state’s unique resources. Training is provided in-person by Audubon SC's 'Seas & Shores Coordinator.' If you can't support this effort with your time, please consider supporting shorebirds and seabirds by donating to Audubon South Carolina. Coastal birds need us now more than ever. 

Support our conservation work by contributing today.




While year-round protection is needed, Audubon's current capacity forces us to focus stewarding efforts on the most critical time in coastal birds' life cycles: spring, summer, and fall. Critical habitat sites require the watchful eye of volunteer stewards to implement significant safeguards for nesting and migration.

Summer nesting

Wilson's Plovers, American Oystercatchers, and Least Terns nest in South Carolina on the open beach making them most likely to come in conflict with people. Their nesting season occurs from mid-March to mid-October. Stewards cover shifts during peak beach hours on multiple sites throughout South Carolina. Weekends, especially long holiday weekends, can be disastrous for shorebirds and seabirds since the level of disturbance from people, pets, and boats is often higher than usual. Under these circumstances, signs posted around key sites may not provide adequate protection.

Spring migration

When we see birds on the beach during these seasons, they are resting and refueling. Their lives depend on regaining fat stores at stopover sites in South Carolina and short quick flights to evade humans and dogs are extremely costly. Volunteer stewards are needed on stopover beaches to inform beachgoers about these extraordinary birds and why its so vital that we keep our distance from them.

Volunteering Opportunities Contact List: If you are interested in being placed on an emailing list for updates and volunteer opportunities along the coast email Richard Covey.

Red Knots

This species of shorebird is in particular need of stewardship due to its recent Listing as Federally Threatened. Red Knots have declined by 85% in the last 15 years. They have an 18,000 mile long migration, stopping in South Carolina to rest and feed before heading up to their breeding grounds in the artic. The colorful birds are full of character and smart enough to time their migration with horseshoe crabs, gorging on horseshoe eggs before heading north. Red Knots travel in large flocks and are easily disturbed by people and dogs, adding stress to an already perilous journey. Stewards are needed to help watch over Red Knots and educate people how to be respectful and responsible with their pets from March through June. Join our contact list or contact Audubon South Carolina's Coastal Program Cooridinator if you are interested in helping this struggling species stand (and sleep) on two feet (okay they can sleep on one foot too but we think you get the idea).

2016 Sites

Dewees Island

  • Least Tern colony of 21 nests, confirmed hatchlings
  • Wilson's Plover, 2 nests, 2 confirmed hatchlings

Hunting Island State Park

  • Zero observed nests

Huntington Beach State Park

  • Wilson's Plover, 3 nests, failure due to washover

We are organizing our 2017 sites and will need YOUR HELP! We are expanding to more migratory stopover and nesting beaches in 2017.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an Audubon Shorebird Steward, please contact Audubon South Carolina's Coastal Program Coordinator.
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