Shooters Island Harbor Herons Preserve
Borough: Staten Island
Habitat Type: Salt Marsh
Shooters Island, located off of northern Staten Island, was once home to the Shooter’s Island Petroleum Refining and Storage Company, the Townsend-Downey Shipbuilding Company, and the Standard Shipbuilding Company. After World War I the island became a dump for derelict vessels; the surrounding waters became too polluted for even birds to wade. The island was ignored until the 1960s when a local politician proposed to obliterate Shooter’s Island to make ship navigation easier.
Luckily the proposal was abandoned, and with the Clean Water Act of 1972, it was only a matter of time before the island became a bird’s paradise. At least seven species of wading birds breed here, and forty-three species have been seen on the island. Because of its importance as a habitat and breeding ground for birds, Shooter’s Island was assigned to Parks on March 3, 1994 as a bird sanctuary. Nine of the island’s 43 acres belong to New Jersey (Bayonne owns 7.5 acres, Elizabeth owns 1.5 acres). The island is closed to the public and is only visited by scientists and government employees.
At least seven species of wading birds breed on Shooter’s Island, and forty-three species have been seen on the island. Some of Shooter’s Island avian inhabitants include glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), yellow-crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea), snowy egrets (Egretta thula), great egrets (Casmerodius albus), and cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis). The waters surrounding the island are home to a variety of shellfish species, such as hard-shelled clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and the American oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Heavy shellfish harvesting and water pollution caused the decline of many shellfish species in the waters surrounding Shooter’s Island, but as water quality improves, these populations are improving.
Shooters Island Preserve is not currently accessible to the public.