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Virginia CZM Program 2007 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



College of William & Mary - Center for Conservation Biology

Project Title:

Colonial Waterbird Data Layer

Project Description as Proposed:

The primary objective of this project is to generate population estimates for all colonial waterbird species currently nesting on the Coastal Plain of Virginia with the exception of the Great Blue Heron. A secondary objective is to produce map coverages for all colonies of water birds within the Coastal Plain. Taken together, these 2 information products will allow for an assessment of status and distribution for all colonial nesters in the eastern portion of the state (with the exception of the Great Blue Heron). This information is used daily by regulatory agencies in permit review. Comparison of the 2008 survey to those conducted in 2003 and 1993 will allow for an evaluation of trends.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Bart Paxton - (757) 221-1639 :

Project Status:

Project Closed

Final Product Received:

Status and Distribution of Colonial Waterbirds in Coastal Virginia: 2008 Breeding Season (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The purpose of these surveys was to generate population estimates for all colonial water bird species (except Great Blue Herons) nesting in coastal Virginia in 2008.  Information compiled is intended to (1) be integrated into biological databases to be used in the environmental review process, (2) provide information for comparison to past and future surveys for the purpose of assessing log-term population trends, and (3) be used in the formulation of management recommendations. Nearly 550 surveys were conducted of 250 colonies during the breeding season of 2008.  Colonies supported an estimated 60,758 breeding pairs of 24 species.  Gulls were the most abundant group with more than 40,000 breeding pairs.  Terns and waders accounted for 9,455 and 4,763 pairs respectively.  Laughing gulls were several times more abundant than any other species and represented 61% of the total waterbird community.  The barrier island/lagoon system of the Eastern Shore was the most important region for the majority of colonial species encountered.  This region supported 20 of the 23 species evaluated during the survey and accounted for greater than 74% and 70% of all breeding pairs and colonies, respectively.  For 15 of the 23 species, the region supported more than 50% of the known coastal population. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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