Virginia’s Largest Seabird Colony Relocates to New Temporary Home

Audubon urges Hampton area boaters to give nesting birds the space they need.

HAMPTON (May 21, 2020) – As Memorial Day weekend approaches and phase 1 of reopening Virginia has begun, Audubon calls on all boaters to help protect the nesting birds on Fort Wool (also known as Rip Raps Island) in the Hampton Roads area.

“For 40 years, South Island has been an important nesting area for seabirds like Royal Terns and Black Skimmers, and in recent years the largest seabird colony in Virginia,” said Dr. Donald Lyons, Director of Conservation Science for the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Restoration Program.

“Now that the birds are settling in to nest on Fort Wool and nearby barges, we’re calling on boaters in the area to heed a signed closure of these locations to give these birds the space they need to nest, while enjoying some much-needed time outdoors. Nesting birds are especially susceptible to disturbance, which can cause them to abandon their eggs and chicks. Giving them a little space can really help them have a successful year.”

In February, Audubon applauded Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for committing to provide a temporary home for the 15,000 seabirds that were displaced from their former nesting grounds on South Island by construction work associated with the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion. With the help of Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program, Virginia Tech and American Bird Conservancy, the state was able to establish a new, temporary nesting location for these vulnerable seabirds on the adjacent Ft. Wool and barges prepared specifically for this purpose. So far, the tremendous effort to create nest habitat on Ft. Wool and nearby barges, together with social attraction, appear to be working.

“Additionally, we encourage the Commonwealth of Virginia to continue planning the establishment of a new island and long-term home for these birds, and state level migratory bird protections that counter the Trump Administration’s rollbacks to the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”


About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Contact: Rachel Guillory,, 504.708.5873