Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) today announced that Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook will be closed to the public beginning today, May 24 through September 9, to prevent disturbances to nesting birds.

Both islands have been designated by DEEP as Natural Area Preserves, primarily because of their importance as nesting habitats for several state-listed birds, including snowy egrets and great egrets (state threatened species), glossy ibis, and little blue herons (state special concern).

The two islands have also been designated as Important Bird Areas by Audubon Connecticut.

In addition, the DEEP is asking beachcombers, sunbathers and boaters along the Connecticut shoreline to respect the fencing and yellow signs warning of piping plover and least tern nesting sites.

The piping plover, a small, sandy-colored shorebird about the size of a sparrow, is a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as a state threatened species in Connecticut. The small, gull-like least tern, which nests in colonies in the same beach habitat as the piping plover, also is a state threatened species.

“Each year the DEEP closes Charles and Duck Island during the nesting season to protect various bird species and to safeguard piping plovers and least terns on their beaches,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP Deputy Commissioner. “Closing the islands and enlisting the public’s help and cooperation are simple but effective ways to protect these birds.”