Wildlife & Habitat

  • Piping Plovers

    Piping plover - Don Freiday/USFWS.

    The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small shorebird that nests on sandy beaches. Beginning in the early 1950’s, plovers began experiencing loss of habitat due to development on the barrier islands.

    Piping plovers nest on the Holgate and Little Beach Island sections of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. One-quarter to one-third of the nesting population of piping plover found in New Jersey nest here.

    The Atlantic coast population of nesting piping plovers extends from Canada to North Carolina.

    The piping plover was officially listed on January 10, 1986 as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

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  • American Black Duck

    American black duck - David Woeller.

    The American black duck (Anas rubripes) is a dabbling duck that spends the winter on the shores of the east coast. Forty-five percent of the total population of American black ducks winter in New Jersey; Forsythe houses a great proportion of that number. American black ducks can be seen from the wildlife drive in large numbers in the winter months.

  • Atlantic Brant

    American brant - N. Kontonicolas.

    Atlantic brant (Branta bernicla) are solely dependent on marine plants for food. Prior to the 1930s their diet consisted entirely of eelgrass. A mold attacked and killed eelgrass in the 1930s which caused a rapid drop in the brant population. This area was the last stronghold for the brant, and is part of the reason Forsythe NWR was founded. Fifty-seven percent of the Atlantic brant population winters in New Jersey.

  • Salt marsh

    Salt marsh - Don Freiday/USFWS.

    Of the refuge's 47,000 acres, 78% is salt marsh. Salt marsh is the most productive land on earth- twice as productive as even the richest farm fields. This makes salt marshes a very important nursery for young fish, and a great buffer to the upland coastline for nor’easters, hurricanes, and strong waves. It is also nesting habitat for coastal songbirds such as Salt Marsh and Seaside Sparrows, and feeding grounds for many species of ducks, geese, herons and egrets. You might notice that most of the salt marsh appears to look the same, and that is because only a few plant species, which are specially adapted to tolerate salt water, are capable of growing here.