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Northern Harrier flying
Northern Harrier © Kyle Wilmarth

Important Bird Area: Chappaquidick Island

Map for the Chappaquidick Island IBA site.

Nominated By

Debra Swanson


1,328 acres

Towns and Counties

Edgartown; Dukes


Dukes County, private, The Trustees Of Reservation, The Nature Conservancy

Major Habitats

pitch pine/scrub oak, maritime heathland, early successional shrubland, emergent freshwater wetland, salt marsh, coastal beach, marine/tidal, lake/pond

Land Use

nature conservation, fishing/hunting, recreation/tourism

Serious Threats

introduced animals, succession, predators, disturbance, recreational use

Minor Threats

invasive/non-native plants

IBA Criteria

  • Category 2: Sites containing assemblages of species characteristic of a representative, rare, threatened, or unique habitat within the state or region.
  • Category 4: Shorebirds: The site regularly supports 1,000 or more shorebirds at one time at a coastal site, during some part of the year, or a significant concentration of shorebirds at one time at a nontidal site. The designation "shorebirds" includes birds such as plovers, sandpipers, snipe, woodcocks, and phalaropes.

Site Description

This IBA includes Cape Poge, Wasque, Norton Point Beach, and Katama.

Located on Chappaquiddick Island and habitat to the east, the site is dominated by sandplain grassland, maritime heathland, maritime shrubland, and a variety of coastal beaches, salt marsh, and tidelands. It is bordered to the east and south by approximately 12 miles of barrier beach and dunes, along with associated salt marsh, salt and freshwater ponds and bay, and 150 acres of farmland.

Current Conservation Status

Mixed ownership, some owned by Trustees of Reservations and The Nature Conservancy; some areas, especially heathlands, are seriously threatened by non-native plants, succession, and introduced predators.

Ornithological Significance

State and federally listed species: Piping Plovers - at least 12 pairs regularly breeding; Least Terns - up to 500 breeding pairs; Northern Harriers - at least 3 breeding pairs/nests.

American Oystercatchers - 12-15 breeding pairs; Willets - a few breeding pairs, but not confirmed.

Least, Common, and Roseate terns - over 300 present during migration seasons.

Black-crowned Night-Heron heronry, formerly large and included Snowy Egrets.

More than 500 marsh and sea ducks; Canada geese in bays during nonbreeding season.

At least 1,000 shorebirds during migration (including Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Dunlins, Ruddy Turnstones, Piping Plovers, Willets, etc.)

Unique and rare habitats: coastal beach/dune; maritime heathland/sandplain grassland, maritime Red Cedar forest.

Other Flora or Fauna of Significance

None listed.

Data Sources

Terns, Plovers, Oystercatchers: Annual Field Reports to Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, 1993-2002, by Debra L. Swanson

Northern Harriers: Personal observations

Field Reports by Dr. Rhys Bowen (1999 to Sheriff's Meadow Foundation; 2001 to The Nature Conservancy)