Periwindles Surprise Biologists
Periwinkle. Photo by Pete McGowan, USFWS
Periwinkle. Photo by Pete McGowan, USFWS

Biologists monitoring restored wetlands on Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay were recently surprised when they discovered saltmarsh periwinkles. What’s so exciting about this find is that previous monitoring at two created wetlands located on Poplar Island did not show much invertebrate activity in these marshes as compared to mainland marshes. Until now, invertebrates such as periwinkles had not been documented in the created marshes.

Now that the wetland habitats are beginning to mature, they are beginning to attract typical saltmarsh invertebrate species such periwinkles. Periwinkles are snails commonly found in the intertidal zone of brackish and saltwater marshes. Because they are air breathers, they are often found during periods of high water above the waterline on stems of saltmarsh cordgrass. They are a crucial component of the ecosystem, feeding on detritus (decaying matter) and algae and are an important source of food for waterbirds, crabs, and fish.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office is leading wildlife management for the Poplar Island project. Records from the 1600’s described Poplar Island as being over 2,000 acres. By 1990, erosion reduced the island to remnants totaling less than 10 acres. Using dredged material from Chesapeake Bay shipping channels, workers are steadily rebuilding the island and restoring its habitat.

In addition to periwinkles, biologists have recorded over 130 bird species at the site, 19 of which have been documented as nesting. Commonly observed birds include: osprey, egrets, herons, cormorants, terns, and several waterfowl species. All of these species utilize the wetlands and adjacent waters for foraging, resting, and/or nesting.

Stumps and discarded Christmas trees placed in the island marshes and upland areas this past winter for structure have provided cover and nesting habitat for several species of birds and small mammals such as meadow voles and white-footed mice.

In addition to monitoring plant growth and wildlife use in the wetlands, biologists are also focusing on colonial waterbird nesting management, wildlife disease response, nuisance wildlife management and habitat management/development. Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds in the shallow waters around the island are being monitored for growth and wildlife use.

Download the Poplar Island fact sheet
Download the Poplar Island fact sheet
For more information about Poplar Island Restoration, contact:
Pete McGowan
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis MD 21401
or check out the following sites:


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