Maina Handmaker

PhD Candidate

Department of Environmental Conservation

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Documenting the largest known Whimbrel nocturnal roost

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) are experiencing dramatic declines, in part due to the degradation and loss of migratory stopover sites. The Georgia-South Carolina coast is one of these critical stopover regions, and in fact may be one of only two staging areas used by nearly all Atlantic flyway Whimbrel during northward migration. For shorebirds like Whimbrel that rely on intertidal habitats, a critical component of high-quality stopover habitat is the availability of safe roost sites that provide a place to rest when feeding areas are inundated by high tide and offer safety from predators and disturbance at night. These nocturnal roost sites may be especially rare, requiring birds to make long flights to and from their foraging areas each day. 

Together with partners from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Manomet, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we conducted surveys of  Whimbrel roosting on Deveaux Bank, a small sandbar at the mouth of South Carolina's North Edisto River. We discovered that Deveaux Bank supports at least 19,485 roosting Whimbrel during peak northward migration, making it the largest known Whimbrel nocturnal roost in the world. 

Related Media

Photo by Andy Johnson/CLO

A Miracle of Abundance as 20,000 Whimbrel Take Refuge on a Tiny Island

Story by Scott Weidensaul, Living Bird, 13 October 2021
Photo by Damon Winter/NYT

Leave this Wondrous Island to the Birds

Story by Deborah Cramer, New York Times, 19 June 2021
Photo by Andy Johnson/CLO

Wildness on a Whim: Reflections on Whimbrel in the South Carolina Low Country

Essay by Drew Lanham, Living Bird, 13 October 2021


Nocturnal roost on South Carolina coast supports nearly half of Atlantic coast population of Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus during northward migration

Felicia J. Sanders, Maina C. Handmaker, Andrew S. Johnson, Nathan R. Senner

Wader Study, vol. 128, 2021 Aug