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Northern Harrier flying
Northern Harrier © Kyle Wilmarth

Important Bird Area: West Dennis Beach

Map of the West Dennis Beach IBA site

Nominated By

Matt Bailey, Scott Hecker


100 acres

Towns and Counties

Dennis; Barnstable



Major Habitats

salt marsh, coastal beach, marine/tidal

Land Use

nature & wildlife conservation/land trust, other recreation or tourism

IBA Criteria

  • Category 1: Sites important for long-term research and/or monitoring projects that contribute substantially to ornithology, bird conservation, and/or education.
  • Category 5: Sites regularly holding significant numbers of an endangered, threatened, vulnerable, or declining species.

Site Description

This beach is in the town of Dennis and runs along Nantucket Sound. It is bordered on the west by the Bass River. Behind the primary dune there is a sparsely vegetated area that hosts Least Terns and Piping Plovers. For at least the past six years, 2 to 3 pairs of Piping Plover have also regularly nested on the front beach. Productivity for both of these species is generally very good at this site. On the north side of this site is a long parking lot that averages 40 feet wide. Beyond the lot is a tidal flat and salt marsh that serve as feeding and loafing grounds for plovers and terns. A hummock on the northern edge of the marsh has supported up to 110 pairs of nesting Common Terns.

Current Conservation Status

Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP) staff monitor and fence this site as necessary in cooperation with the Town of Dennis. The CWP Director works with local and state regulators to design beach nourishment projects that enhance the habitat for terns and plovers.

Ornithological Significance

For at least the last seven years, this site has supported significant numbers of nesting Least Terns. Possibly due to its isolation from suitable denning sites, the beach has escaped the pressure exerted elsewhere by mammalian predators. Consequently, productivity is good. This good productivity also has been enjoyed by the 3 to 4 pairs of Piping Plovers that regularly nest at West Dennis Beach. Mass Audubon's CWP has been monitoring breeding shorebirds at this site for at least the last seven years.

Other Flora or Fauna of Significance

None known.

Data Sources

Massachusetts State Tern Inventory. Records from the files of the Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program.