It’s no secret that Long Island is an amazing place to live. And not just for us. Birds and other animals love our region for the same reasons we do—beaches, bike trails, woodland and harbor. Several National Wildlife Refuges and dozens of state parks, meadows and wetland preserves create precious habitats that have been protecting endangered ecosystems and animal species for years, including the piping plovers and hawks. Grab some boots and binoculars and prepare to be amazed.
Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Shirley
Located on the South Shore, this 2,550-acre refuge is home to oak pine woodlands and the scenic Carmans River that creates rich marshlands and wetlands. The site is popular for fishing, controlled hunting and kayaking from Indian’s Landing. Additionally, Wertheim NWR boasts a large population of black tupelo or black gum trees, which can age over 650 years, provide berries for migrating and wintering birds and act as a source of pollen for bees.
Wildlife to spot: White-tailed deer, box turtle, osprey, eastern wild turkey, rainbow trout, fox, shorebirds and song birds.
Trails to take: White Oak Nature Trail (1.25 and 2 mile loops) or the Black Tupelo Trail (3.3 miles). Click to go
Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, Lloyd Harbor
Natural trails immersed in an oak-hickory forest, rocky beaches dotted with fishermen, ponds and shorelines brimming with migratory birds and sea life, what’s not to love about Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge? All 80 acres of this wildlife hotspot are home to precious ecosystems and migrating birds. The berries of red cedar trees attract robins, catbirds, mockingbirds and thrushes, while multiple vernal pools create safe spaces for amphibians and reptiles to breed and feed. Those looking to practice their photography skills can find endless subject material among the dense azaleas, rhododendron and yews.
Wildlife to spot: Warbler song birds, red fox, wild turkey, deer, osprey, herons, egrets, puddle ducks, stripped bass, flounder and porgy.
Trails to take: Warbler Loop Trail, Rocky Beach Trail and Gardener’s Path. Click to go
Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, Sag Harbor
This bustling, 187-arce refuge is lush with both plant and animal life. Birdlife here is especially abundant, as Jessup’s Neck is an important peninsula in the migration corridor for birds. Visitors looking for activities can choose between wildlife watching from Morton Refuge, shoreline fishing or guided walks. Heavily eroded bluffs can be seen from the beach, and salt and freshwater marshes and lagoons lie protected in the oak and cedar forests.
Wildlife to spot: Piping plover, terns, osprey, eastern chipmunk, painted turtles, frogs, white-winged scoter, harbor seals, mackerel, flounder and bluefish.
Trails to take: Wild Birds Nature Trail Click to go
Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oyster Bay
Take a breath of fresh air at the Oyster Bay NWR. This bird haven boasts the greatest winter waterfowl of any LI refuge. Located off of the Long Island Sound, puddle ducks such as black ducks, gadwall, mallards and other migratory water birds find a wonderful habitat in the 3,204 acres of bay bottom, salt marsh and a small freshwater wetland. For humans, this is an excellent spot for fishing, boating and photography.
Wildlife to spot: Northern Diamondback Terrapin, harbor seals, sea turtles, shellfish, flounder, bluefish and blackfish. Click to go
Amagansett National Wildlife Refuge, Amagansett
Formerly a lifeboat station, Amagansett NWR is a 36-acre habitat on the South Fork with a rare double dune system. The fragile shore habitat and wildlife is right on the edge of a public beach, allowing beachgoers to snap pictures of federally protected birdlife and elusive critters.
Wildlife to spot: Piping plover, roseate terns, striped bass, flounder, bluefish and blackfish. Click to go
Not Listed: Seatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Conscience Point Wildlife Refuge and Lido Beach Wildlife Area because they are by permit use only and not open to the public.