ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Georgia’s coastal chain of barrier islands has been designated an important habitat for shorebirds by an international conservation group.

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network announced the Georgia islands as its 100th site designated as a “landscape of hemispheric importance” for shorebirds flying between North and South America.

The designation connects the Georgia coast with 99 other sites in 14 countries that have received the same recognition, The Florida Times-Union reported .

The honor doesn’t commit Georgia to any regulatory requirements. But Megan Desrosiers, CEO of the coastal Georgia conservation group 100 Miles, said it “confirms to the rest of the world what we in Georgia already know: Our 100 miles are a wonder of the world, worthy of our pride and deserving of our protection.”

The designation was granted after months of work and presentation of studies to support Georgia’s inclusion. Derosiers’ group says Georgia’s barrier island support more than 30 percent of the population of red knots and a large proportion of the Great Lakes breeding population of piping plovers.

The islands are also known to attract American Oystercatchers, black-bellied plovers and other species including whimbrel and the short-billed dowitcher, according to the network’s announcement.

“It’s a recognition of the significance of that barrier island landscape,” said Brad Winn, former head of the non-game species program for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Brunswick.

There are 52 species of shorebirds in North America. Some that nest far north in the tundra spend winter in Georgia, Winn said, while others pass through on their way to the Caribbean or South America.

“Georgia is both a stopover site and a winter designation,” said Winn, who now works for the conservation organization Manomet.

A number of member organizations of the Georgia Shorebird Alliance helped push the islands’ inclusion in the international network’s list of key shorebird sites. The alliance’s member properties make up some 79,709 acres in Georgia that have been included in the network’s landscape designation, which covers 36.9 million acres globally.


Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com