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Wildlife & Habitat

  • Common Tern

    Common tern in flight - Kirk Rogers/USFWS.

    A species listed as special concern in Massachusetts, the common tern (a gregarious small seabird that primarily feeds on American sand lance) uses the refuge to breed, yet there has been a decline in use by tern species on the refuge which has coincided with the appearance of breeding gulls on the island, and these gull numbers have grown over time. It is well documented that gulls are nest predators of tern and other coastal bird species, and also compete with terns and other species for nesting habitat (O’Connell and Beck 2003, Donehower et al. 2007).

  • Double-Crested Cormorants

    Double-crested cormorant - USFWS.

    Since 1989, double-crested cormorants have nested on the refuge. Once extirpated from the region, double-crested cormorants returned to Massachusetts to breed around 1937 (Wires and Cuthbert 2006) and despite some setback, they have been slowly increasing in numbers since. Cormorants feed on a diversity of prey, tending towards those species that are most abundant and most easily captured (Trapp et al. 1997). Concomitant with this increase in double-crested cormorant numbers throughout their range over the last several decades is an increasing concern over the perceived impact this species has on aquaculture and fisheries.

  • Monarch Butterflies

    Monarch butterfly - USFWS.

    Every fall, the arrival of brilliant orange and black monarch butterflies, traveling thousands of miles from America’s midwest south to a small area in the mountains of central Mexico leaves visitors to refuges in awe. Monarchs have a 4-inch wingspan and weigh 1 gram (less than a dime) and travel with cold fronts, often at speeds of 10-30 mph, covering up to 80 miles in one day. They may fly at 3,000 feet and higher, and will “fall out” onto goldenrod and saltbush plants blooming along the coast and at the lighthouse, and feed hungrily for their long trip.

  • Shrub Habitat

    Shrublands - USFWS.

    Shrub habitat comprises various shrub species or a diverse mix of young trees that provide an abundance of insect food for breeding birds that need to consume large amounts of protein for reproduction and feeding young. The structural density in this habitat provides cover from predators and shelter from harsh weather. In addition to its value to breeding birds, shrubland habitat is important because many other birds rely on it at various times during the year. Many shrub species bear fruit in the fall, which helps boost the fat reserves for migrating or over-wintering birds.

  • Intertidal Beach & Rocky Shores

    Aerial of the refuge - USFWS.

    The intertidal beach and rocky shores of the refuge provide important nesting and foraging habitat for many priority species of conservation concern. Throughout the Atlantic coast, quality beach habitat is imperiled due to increases in human uses and development. Being closed to the public for decades and no records of mammalian mesopredators on the island, gulls are the only known taxa that adversely impact beach nesting species of priority conservation concern on the island. This unique occurrence in a heavily populated area highlights the responsibility of the Service to protect and maintain sensitive coastal habitat.

  • Wetlands

    Aerial view of the refuge - USFWS.

    A number of different wetland types exist on the refuge. They range from ponds to permanently flooded marshes to seasonally flooded marshes. These habitats support a small black-crowned night-heron rookery, and waterfowl such as American black ducks, mallards, and American green-winged teal. Mammals including muskrat, reptiles such as spotted turtles, waterbirds including Virginia rails, and passerines including song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds use these Refuge wetlands as well. Other species that may use these habitats on the refuge are northern pintail, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, glossy ibis, and least bittern.

Page Photo Credits — Common tern - Kirk Rogers/USFWS.
Last Updated: Sep 09, 2013
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