Seasonal migratory seabirds began arriving in the territory early in April, and are now starting to nest on beaches and offshore islands, so Planning and Natural Resources wants residents to avoid driving on mudflats and steer clear of coastal nests, according to the department. The cays are closed to visitation until September to prevent disturbance to the nesting colonies, DPNR announced in a statement.
These seabirds migrate from South and Central America, where they overwinter, and come to the U.S. Virgin Islands to breed, according to DPNR. The birds nest in colonies of up to several hundred pairs, often laying eggs in rudimentary nests on the ground. They generally nest on the offshore cays, but certain species, such as the locally endangered Least Tern, also have nesting sites on mudflats and beaches on St Croix, as well as St Thomas and St John.
One or two eggs are laid in a season, and usually only one chick survives to fledging. If disturbed, the parents will fly away from the nest leaving the eggs or chicks exposed to high temperatures and predators. The parents will not nest again if the eggs are lost.
All migratory birds are protected from injury, killing, and harassment. It is illegal to disturb nesting seabirds and to collect eggs.