It's spring in the Florida Panhandle, and that means it's nesting season for many species of
shorebirds and seabirds. Franklin County contains some of the most significant nesting areas in
the panhandle, including the old St. George Island bridge causeway and "Bird Island" dredge spoil
island, both managed by the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR).
From April 1 to August 31, both areas are closed to all human and animal traffic. The old causeway
is conferred the special designation of being a "Critical Wildlife Area" due to the high number of
threatened and endangered birds that nest here and marine patrol will enforce this designation.
Least terns, gull-billed terns, sandwich terns, Caspian terns, royal terns, black skimmers,
American oystercatchers, and laughing gulls nest on the Causeway and all species but the laughing
gull are protected by state or federal law. In the past decade these birds have laid more than
3000 nests per year in this area. Brown pelicans and American oystercatchers nest on Bird Island
and are also both protected species. The brown pelican colony on Bird Island has grown in size in
recent years and last year 700 nests were laid by the birds.
Least tern hatchling and parent