Wildlife & Habitat

  • Piping Plover

    Piping plover - USFWS.

    The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small sand-colored shorebird that nests and feeds along sandy beaches throughout Cape Cod and the shores of Massachusetts. Piping plovers are a threatened species in Massachusetts and are protected by the migratory bird act. They can be identified by their short, stout bill, yellow-orange legs, black band across the forehead, and a black ring around the neck. Their name derives from their call, which sounds like a series of bell-like whistles. During the breeding season, piping plovers can be found nesting on South Monomony Island.

  • American Oystercatcher

    American oystercatcher - USFWS.

    The American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) is a species of concern in Massachusetts. It is a large shorebird living in coastal salt marshes and sand beaches, specializing in eating bivalve mollusks living in saltwater. This restricts the bird completely to marine habitats. The oystercatcher has a dark head, back, and wings, with a white underbelly and long reddish beak. Legs are long and a pale-pink color and the eyes are yellow with a red ring around them. Their breeding range is along the Atlantic coast from Boston, MA south to Florida, and they occasionally wander north to Maine.

  • Roseate Tern

    Roseate tern - Amanda Boyd/USFWS.

    Roseate tern (Sterna dougalli) is a pale, medium-sized tern that is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Northeastern individuals almost always breed in colonies with Common or Arctic terns. This tern can be identified by the black “cap” on its head, its dark red beak, grey back and white forked tail. They can be seen plunge-diving to feed on small schooling marine fish, often submerging completely when they dive. During the breeding season, roseates can be found nesting in the tern colony on South Monomoy Island.

  • Dunes

    Dunes - Zachary Cava/USFWS.

    A big part of habitat protection entails the protection of the refuge’s natural dunes. The complex system of grass and plant roots that keep our dunes intact is important not only to the physical structure of the landscape but for the habitat it provides for nesting birds and other animals. We have strict rules at the refuge to stay on walking paths as not to disturb the dune system, because without it the natural progression of dune to pitch pine forest would be disrupted and the forest would face potentially detrimental amounts of sea spray.