Tomkins Island Seabird Santuary

Property Location

Jasper, SC 

Latitude: 32.059  Longitude:-80.868
Acreage: 7

Property Type: Seabird Sanctuaries

Hours of Operation

This Santuary is closed to public use year-round.

Property Description

Tomkins Island Seabird Sanctuary

Tomkins Island became a Seabird Sanctuary in 2015. Construction of the island was part of the mitigation requirements for continued maintenance dredging of Savannah Harbor; the island was completed January 2005. Management of Tomkins Island is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Savannah District and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Both parties provide critical resources toward the effective management of the site. The Corps of Engineers maintains the physical aspects of the site, repairing and rehabilitating the rocks and sand that comprise the island and controlling vegetation to keep it a bare ground nesting site for seabirds and shorebirds. Both agencies monitor bird use of the site.

Tomkins Island is a constructed island of approximately 7 acres above mean high water. Species that nest on the site include: brown pelican, royal tern, black skimmer, gull-billed tern, sandwich tern, laughing gull, and American oystercatcher. It has had over 11,000 tern nests in one season. Besides providing nesting habitat, Tomkins Island serves as a winter loafing area for many species. In spring horseshoe crabs spawn on the beach, and thousands of migrating shorebirds feed on this important food resource.

The colonial behavior of the birds nesting on the island makes them very susceptible to disturbance. Birds are densely packed into breeding sites during the nesting season, which makes them vulnerable to disruption and possible destruction of entire colonies. Human disturbance can modify nesting behavior, resulting in nest abandonment, active aggression between nesting neighbors, and increased susceptibility to predation. In addition, the island provides valuable loafing habitat for birds during the winter months.

To allow this Sanctuary to provide the habitats for which it was created, public access is prohibited all year. At all times of the year, only human visitation that is approved by SCDNR or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Savannah District is allowed. Visitors must possess, on their person, written permission from either SCDNR or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Savannah District.