The beaches of Harrison County are considered a nationally recognized model conservation and a Globally Important Bird Area (IBA) because there are more Least Terns nesting here than any other site in the world! Historically, Least Terns nested on the barrier islands of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but were first discovered nesting on the mainland in 1936. Most of the mainland nesting sites was fabricated dredge areas, or construction sites under bridges, and with the construction of the world's longest man-made beach along the Mississippi Sound in 1952, the terns found a paradise for nesting! The sheltered waters of the Mississippi Sound provide good fishing and the busy U. S. Highway 90 help guard against animals that might otherwise find an easy lunch.
Due to the close proximity of five separate important bird areas (IBA) - (Biloxi Beach, Gulfport East, Gulfport West, Long Beach, and Pass Christian) - all within Harrison County - it became necessary to combine them into one easily identifiable important bird area - The Gulfport IBA - Tern Sanctuary! A two one-mile stretch of the beach has sea oats, other beach vegetation and signs erected warning visitors and beach goers of the presence of breeding birds. Some terns have established satellite colonies at other areas along the beach. Protected by law, once the terns start nesting they cannot be disturbed.
Please obey signs in designated areas and stay out the nesting areas. The Gulfport IBA is an open beach habitat along the Gulf of Mexico; owned by the state of Mississippi’s Office of Tidelands, and managed by the Harrison County Beach Authority!