Wildlife & Habitat

  • Piping Plover

    Piping plover - USFWS.

    Charadrius melodus – Federally Threatened

    The piping plover lives the majority of its life on open sandy beaches or rocky shores, often in high, dry sections away from water. They can be found on the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada on the ocean or bay beaches and on the lakeshores. It builds its nests higher on the shore near beach grass and other objects. It is very rare to see a piping plover anywhere outside of sand or rocky beaches/shores while not migrating. If spotted, the law states you MUST keep your distance.

  • Roseate Tern

    Roseate Tern

    Sterna dougallii dougallii

    Roseate terns nest on rocky coastal islands, outer beaches or salt marsh islands. In the northeast, all documented nesting has been with common terns. Roseates generally use the more densely vegetated portions of the shared nesting habitat, and are afforded additional protection by the common terns' more aggressive anti-predator behavior. Nests consist of a shallow scrape on the ground, and man-made materials are readily adopted, including inverted boxes or half-buried tires which provide covered sites. Visitors might find these migratory birds nesting and resting; it’s important to keep your distance.

  • Gray Seals

    Gray seal - USFWS.

    Halichoerus grypus

    Gray seals are generally found in coastal waters. In their cold water habitat, these animals use blubber to maintain necessary body temperatures. On land, they inhabit rocky coasts and islands, sandbars, and ice shelves. During mating, pupping, and molting, they gather into large groups. At sea they are usually found alone or in small dispersed groups. When hunting, gray seals use the entire water column--from the water's surface to the sea floor. Gray seals share their habitat with many organisms and are often found in the same areas as harbor seals. Please view from a safe distance.

  • Barrier Beach Dunes

    Barrier beach dunes - USFWS.

    Most of the refuge is characterized as barrier beach dunes, which includes the beach, berm, and dune system. Barrier beach dunes generally begin at the high water line and extend inland and upland. Dune systems vary in topography, elevation, and relative amounts and types of vegetation, and are greatly influenced by wind and wave energy. Barrier beach dunes are also found throughout the Coskata-Coatue Peninsula, and comprise a large portion of the edges of Nantucket Island.

  • Intertidal Areas

    Beach at Nantucket - Amanda Boyd/USFWS.

    Intertidal areas are found along the perimeter of the refuge, interfacing with the ocean, and encompass virtually all of the Coskata-Coatue Peninsula and Nantucket Island. The width of the intertidal area varies depending on the slope of the sand flats adjacent to the shoreline. Although little vegetation grows in most of the intertidal areas, this habitat is very rich as a result of daily tidal influence and renourishment. These intertidal habitats generally support a variety of invertebrates (e.g., soft shell clams and horseshoe crabs), foraging birds (American oystercatchers and piping plovers), and marine mammals (gray and harbor seals).

  • Saltmarshes

    Salt marsh - Amanda Boyd/USFWS.

    Saltmarshes generally occur in calm intertidal areas, but are some of the most productive ecosystems because of the amount of biomass associated with them. Salt and brackish marshes are located in the swales east of Coskata Woods at The Glades, and on the Coatue points. Saltmarsh habitat provides rich feeding habitat for foraging shorebirds (ex. least sandpiper), wading birds (ex. great egret), and the American oystercatcher, willet and common terns will nest in slightly elevated patches of saltmarsh. While there are no saltmarshes on the refuge, these habitats are on the peninsula and support the landscape needs of wildlife.