North Brother/South Brother Harbor Herons Preserve
Harbor Herons Preserve
Habitat Type: Forest
North Brother/South Brother Harbor Heron Islands are part of the Harbor Herons Region, a national recognized complex of uninhabited islands and expansive marshes essential for shorebirds, located right here in New York City. Collectively known as colonial wading birds, gulls, herons, cormorants, and egrets, prefer the seclusion of islands for nesting and rearing their young. They congregate at North Brother and nearby South Brother in the East River, and at several islands in Staten Island each spring.
These birds have been the focus of extensive research, as their numbers fluctuate significantly between years and locations. However, even keeping these fluctuations in mind, the decline in number of birds in the New York Harbor is a source of significant concern for regional conservation biologists. New York City Audubon Society, Parks’ Natural Resources Group, and many dedicated volunteers visit and quantify the number of nests, eggs, and/or baby birds at North Brother and the other Harbor Heron Islands each spring. In order to gain an understanding of the population dynamics of these birds, data is shared and analyzed among scientist from throughout the region.
North Brother is the site of a former quarantine hospital for contagious disease, where the infamous Typhoid Mary lived out her days. Today the remnants of the hospital and associated building remain as dilapidated wood and masonry structures decaying under the vigorous vine, tree, and shrub growth that has been reclaiming the island over the last forty years. South Brother Island was acquired by Parks in 2007 and was formerly under private ownership. In the early 1900's, Jacob Ruppert, an early owner of the Yankees, owned a summer home on the island that burnt down in 1909. The Island has been uninhabited since then.
North Brother Island is not currently accessible to the public.