Located at the intersection of numerous bird migration tributaries, the Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Sanctuary provides a green haven for vast numbers of migrating songbirds, raptors and waterfowl, passing through the area in the spring and fall, looking for a safe place to rest and refuel.
Each of the Sanctuary's habitats - marsh, maritime forest, dune fields and ponds - support their own special suite of birds: the shrub thickets and maritime forests, now rare on the Outer Banks, provide good habitat for songbirds, while the marshes support rails, bitterns and wading birds. The sanctuary harbors more than 170 bird species, as well as 7 amphibian species, 17 reptile species, 19 mammal species and more than 350 plant species.
How important are the Outer Banks to birds?
Climate Sensitive Birds: National Audubon Society’s ground-breaking report on the impacts of climate change to bird species is astonishing. 314 of the 588 species of birds native to North America are threatened by climate change. 25% of these 314 species use the habitats at the Audubon Sanctuary at some point during the year. In terms of places critical to bird survival in the coming years, this sanctuary has been ranked in the top 2% of climate strongholds.
Learn more on Audubon's Birds and Climate Report.
Priority Birds: 14 of the 83 priority species on the Audubon Watch List have been documented at the Sanctuary. This habitat is critical to protect our most vulnerable birds:
- Black Rail
- Clapper Rail
- Seaside Sparrow
- Saltmarsh Sparrow
- American Black Duck
- Western Sandpiper
- Semipalmated Sandpiper
- Least Tern
- Common Tern
- Black Skimmer
- Wood Thrush
- Prothonotary Warbler
- Brown-headed Nuthatch
Responsibility Species: The birds on this list have a high proportion of its global population breeding in the region and need special conservation attention. Conserving the Sanctuary allows them to flourish and continue to thrive for generations to come.
How you can help, right now
Stay in Touch with Pine Island
Learn about the bird conservation research taking place at Pine Island and find nature-focused events happening at this Important Bird Area along the Outer Banks in our periodic eBulletin.