November 30, 2015

Two hawksbill sea turtle nests
are a first for the seashore

Recent DNA results have confirmed that at least two sea turtle nests this season belonged to a visitor rarely seen during the nesting season on the Outer Banks -- hawksbill sea turtles. 

One successfully hatched. It was located south of Ramp 55, the southernmost turtle nest on Hatteras Island for the 2015 season. The nest was laid in mid-July and hatched in early September.  Park biologists recorded 62 eggshells, 1 dead hatchling, and 31 unhatched eggs during the nest excavation.  The second hawksbill nest was lost, washed out by the northeaster that occurred before Hurricane Joaquin passed by offshore, impacting the Outer Banks with heavy surf and severe shoreline erosion in early October.

The successfully hatched nest marks the northern-most nesting site on this side of the Atlantic Ocean for the federally endangered hawksbill sea turtle, as noted by the North Carolina state sea turtle biologist, Matthew Godfrey, and park biologist, Randy Swilling.  Hawksbill sea turtles have been found in the waters off the North Carolina coast, but a hawksbill nest has never been recorded on the seashore.

As of Sept. 23, park biologists have recorded 289 sea turtle nests – a record breaking number for the Seashore.  With Hurricane Joaquin approaching at the beginning of October, staff hurried to document the fewer than 14 sea turtle nests remaining on the beaches of the seashore.  After the impacts of the offshore storm subsided, one nest out of the 14 remained on the beach south of Ramp 30. 

Against all odds, this nest hatched on Oct. 16 and, when excavated several days later, 83 eggshells, 3 live hatchlings, and 24 unhatched eggs were found in the cavity resulting in a 74 percent emergence success and 77 percent hatch success. 


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