North Carolina's colony-nesting waterbirds probably existed for thousands of years along nearly 500 km of coastal estuaries and barrier islands. Suffering from the effects of over-harvest by plume hunters and extensive loss of habitat due to coastal development, these birds began to receive notice during the 1970s. Studies of coastal community succession began in 1970 and quickly determined that dredged material islands provide essential habitat for colony-nesting waterbirds. In 1976, coastwide censuses were initiated to survey the 20-22 species suspected to nest in the state. Surveys in 1976, 1977, and 1983 brought to light a need for cooperative management for these species. In 1988, a Cooperative Agreement to conserve these species and their habitats was adopted by 11 state, federal, and private agencies. For the past 4 years, the cooperating agencies have successfully continued this coastwide conservation effort.