Wildlife & Habitat

  • Piping Plover

    Piping plover

    After a male piping plover clears a small nesting area near the first seaside row of dunes, a female lays camouflaged eggs, usually four. If a fox or another predator approaches, she moves off the nest and displays a broken wing act worthy of an Academy Award, designed to lure the intruder away from her eggs. Hours after they hatch, plover chicks leave the nest to feed. Their trips to the ocean’s edge can be dangerous when they have to dodge people and dogs. The chicks are so well camouflaged that, before nesting areas were closed to the public, these “walking cotton balls” were often killed by beach-going vehicles.

  • American Burying Beetle

    American Burying Beetle

    Block Island harbors one of only a handful of American burying beetle populations, and the only natural population known east of the Mississippi River. This beetle is the largest of the North American carrion beetles, whose numbers have so drastically declined that they were federally-listed as endangered in 1989. They have been documented on or adjacent to refuge land, including near Beane Point and just north of Great Salt Pond. Beetles on the refuge are likely foraging primarily on dead pheasant chicks, and occasionally on dead gull and black-crowned night-heron chicks. Carrion availability may be the single greatest factor determining where the species can survive.

  • Fiddler Crab

    Fiddler Crab

    Fiddler crabs are a common sight along the coastline of the Beane Point Unit of the Block Island Refuge. With the males easily recognizable due to having one claw larger than the other, this crustacean is a detritivore, sifting through sediment for algae, microbes and fungus to eat.

  • Coastal Shrubland

    Coastal Shrubland

    These rare habitats provide food and cover for wildlife, including species-at-risk like the Grasshopper Sparrow, whose numbers have severely declined. Shrublands also serve as refuges for native warm-season grasses and rare plants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps wildlife in this crucial habitat in many ways. It removes Asian Bittersweet and other invasive plants that overtake native vegetation. The staff teach about conservation and ethical practices. And they help landowners to protect their coastal habitats.

  • Cobble Beach

    Cobble Beach

    These expanses are vital feeding and nesting areas for migrating birds - and are critical breeding habitat for the threatened piping plover. While at the refuge, notice the busy pace of shorebirds as they probe into the sand along the water's edge for juicy worms and tasty burrowing mollusks and crustaceans. From wolf spider to beach pea, beaches provide a home for an amazing diversity of wildlife.