Decoys Help Protect Least Terns

They certainly sound like Least Terns. They even look like Least Terns. But a bunch of birds resting on the beach in Harrison County don't move, fly or attack their intruders. They are actually decoys. They are made from resin, and carefully hand-painted to look like the real thing.

The Mississippi Coast Audubon Society planted 200 decoys in the sand, in a designated Least Tern Sanctuary west of Debuys Road. Audubon Society member Jan Dubuisson says the decoys help lure Least Terns from temporary sites back to this protected section of beach.

Dubuisson said "With the problems we've had over the past few years of the birds moving away from sanctuaries and trying to nest in other areas, we were trying to come up with a way to attract them back to their original sanctuaries".

And the bird calls don't come from real birds, but from two solar-powered devices. Dubuisson said "The sound system is actually a C.D. playing the colony sounds from a Least Tern colony. It just plays the calls over and over again.  The combination of the calls and the decoys in the sand attract other terns into the area".

Dubuisson says the decoys are working. She hopes eventually both the birds and beach front homeowners can live in peace.

Dubuisson said "Our ideal would be to get the birds completely out of the areas where they're not wanted, and back to this area that's been designated for over 25 years".

The Coast Audubon Society received a $20,000 Tidelands Grant to pay for the decoy and sound system. They will only be used during nesting season, from April through August.