Nesting least terns have ruffled feathers in Waveland

Nesting least terns have ruffled feathers in Waveland
The terns are impacting a 200 yard stretch of beach just inside the eastern city limits of Waveland. (Photo source: WLOX)
The terns are impacting a 200 yard stretch of beach just inside the eastern city limits of Waveland. (Photo source: WLOX)

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - A least tern colony in Waveland has provoked a squawk between bird lovers and beachfront property owners.

At issue - a roughly 200-yard stretch of beach just inside the eastern city limits that is blocked because of the birds.

"We have been co-existing with these birds now for four years. They keep coming back and they seem to be happy. So I don't think a 20-foot pathway to the water will disturb them that much that they will abandon their nests or not come back," said property owner, Henry Martinez Sr.

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors heard from the property owner and an Audubon representative on Thursday. Although both sides are talking, so far it's a stalemate.

Audubon cannot block pubic access to the beach for anyone, including nearby property owners. Martinez and his neighbors say a 20-foot entrance way through the colony would give them the desired access to the water's edge.

"Because if it goes from 100 yards this year, to 300 the next, to 600. The next thing you know, the whole beach - if you go about it this way - could be shut down because of the birds," said Chancery Clerk, Tim Kellar.

However, property owners and residents must also understand they may be violating federal law if they get too close to the nesting colony.

"It's not against the law to go in, and go through. But if you do disturb and harm those birds, that's where the law comes into play," said Sarah Pacyna, with Audubon Mississippi Coastal Bird Stewardship.

The idea of that 20-foot wide pathway to the water will likely have to wait until 2017. The birds are already on their nests, and will be leaving the beach in early August.

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.