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Oyster Bay
National Wildlife Refuge

Canvasback (copyright Ed Sambolin)
Oyster Bay, NY   11771
E-mail: longislandrefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 631-286-0485
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Wintering waterfowl such as this canvasback, black duck and scaup rely on Oyster Bay for food and shelter during the colder months. (copyright Ed Sambolin)
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  Wildlife and Habitat

Continued . . .

Aquatic Habitats Oyster Bay NWR is the largest refuge in the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Refuge consists of 3,209 acres of bay bottom, saltmarsh, and a small freshwater wetland. Nationally, Oyster Bay NWR is one of the few bay bottom Refuges owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bay bottom comprises 78% of the Refuge; unconsolidated shoreline is 3%; Saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) fringe along the shore accounts for 5%; another 5% includes high marsh habitat with salt meadow hay and saltgrass (S. patens/Distichlis spicata) at the west end of the harbor; and an estuarine stream bed, approximately 9%, makes up the remainder. The Refuge is located off of the Long Island Sound and the sheltered nature of the bay makes it extremely attractive as winter habitat for a variety of waterfowl species, especially diving ducks. The State of New York has designated the Oyster Bay area as a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

Fish and Wildlife More than 126 bird species have been documented at the Refuge, including 23 species of waterfowl. Numerous waterfowl species over-winter in Oyster Bay; more than 20,000 ducks have been reported for one survey during peak use. Other waterbirds the Refuge supports in large numbers include double-crested cormorants, Forster's and common terns, wading birds, and shorebirds. Certain areas of Oyster Bay NWR, like Mill Neck Creek and Frost Creek, provide excellent breeding grounds for black duck, clapper rail, and osprey.

Raptors--Osprey, a New York State species of concern, nest along the Mill Neck Creek marsh and have successfully raised their young there. Other raptor species observed at Oyster Bay include northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, merlin and sharp-shinned hawk.

Waterfowl--Oyster Bay NWR has the heaviest winter waterfowl use of any of the Long Island NWRs. The numbers of waterfowl using Oyster Bay are lowest from May through August and start to increase in September and October. Puddle ducks such as black duck, gadwall, and mallards start migrating to the Refuge during early autumn and diversity begins to increase in November. Waterfowl numbers peak and remain high from December through March, and numbers decline in April. The New York Department of State has singled out the Oyster Bay NWR as having the greatest waterfowl concentration on Long Island's north shore.

The most common waterfowl species using the Refuge in winter include greater scaup, bufflehead, and black duck. These three species comprise approximately 85% of all ducks using the Refuge. Greater scaup comprise more than half of all ducks using the Refuge; bufflehead make up close to 20%; and black duck, the most common puddle duck species, close to 10%. Other conspicuous species at the Refuge include long-tailed ducks, American widgeon, gadwall, green-winged teal, red-breasted merganser, common goldeneye, Canada goose, and mute swan.

Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns and Allied Species--The most common waterbird on the Refuge is the double-crested cormorant. They are seen year-round on the Refuge. Cormorant numbers are highest from April through October. Great cormorants occur at a low level during the winter months. Other waterbirds which use the Refuge include common loon, red-throated loon, horned grebe, pied-billed grebe, American coot, belted kingfisher, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, green heron, great egret, and snowy egret. Heron numbers peak in August.

Gulls are common on the Refuge. Herring gulls are the most common in winter and decline during the warmer months. Great black-backed gulls are present year-round but occur in lower numbers than herring gulls. Ring-billed gulls are more common in the winter months, but their numbers are lower than herring gulls. Laughing gulls and Bonaparte's gulls use the Refuge in summer and winter, respectively.

Terns use Oyster Bay NWR from May through October. Common and least tern use are heaviest from May through August. Forster's terns are present on the Refuge in good numbers during September and October.

Seven species of shorebirds are commonly observed on the Refuge. The most common shorebirds include black-bellied plover, dunlin, greater yellowlegs, and least and spotted sandpipers.

Reptiles and Amphibians-The northern diamondback terrapin is common at the Oyster Bay Refuge, particularly in the Frost Creek and Mill Neck Creek sections. The Refuge is considered to have one of the largest populations of diamondback terrapins on Long Island.

Marine MammalsHarbor seals may be observed on the Refuge during March. Seal use of Long Island has been increasing in the past few years.

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species Federal and State designated endangered and threatened species known to use Oyster Bay NWR include the bald eagle; peregrine falcon; osprey; northern harrier; least tern; and Kemp's ridley and loggerhead sea turtles. Peregrine falcons typically migrate through Oyster Bay NWR during the autumn and spring. Bald eagles sporadically visit the Refuge during winter migration. Ospreys nest on the Refuge and have successfully raised young. Northern harriers are observed during spring and autumn migration at the Refuge. Atlantic loggerhead and Kemp's ridley sea turtles are known to forage in Oyster Bay; however, sightings of the turtles are rare and on those occasions, they are usually victims of an injury or cold stun.

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