Important Bird and Birding Areas
Barnegat Bay

IBBA Site Guide

Ocean County
Coordinates: N 39.85608
W 74.12967
Site Map
Atlantic Coast: New England / Mid-Atlantic Coast

Area: 53,529 Acres     

Habitat: Primarily shallow open water with tidal wetlands

Site Description: Barnegat Bay is a large shallow water estuary situated between Island Beach State Park and the mainland. At its southern end, the open waters encompass the Sedge Islands, a complex of salt marsh islands. Submerged aquatic vegetation beds composed of several species of seagrass dominate extensive areas of the bay. These nutrient-rich beds create food and cover for invertebrate species which are eaten by fish, waterfowl and larger invertebrates.

IBA Criteria:
Conservation Concern – State-endangered (B)Black Skimmer, Peregrine Falcon
Conservation Concern – State-threatened (B)Osprey
Conservation Concern – State-special Concern (B)Common Tern
Conservation Concern – Conservation Priority (B)American Black Duck
Significant Congregations (B)Wading Birds
Significant Congregations (W)Waterfowl
Significant Congregations - Exceptional Single Species Concentration (B)Osprey
OspreyMike Lyncheski
Birds: Barnegat Bay supports some of the largest and most diverse breeding colonies of birds in the state, possibly even along the northern Atlantic coast. The bay contains healthy nesting populations of Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Common Terns, Least Terns as well as several species of herons, egrets and ibises among its beaches and salt marsh islands. It is also a critical foraging area for breeding Black Skimmers. During the winter, a wide variety of waterfowl including American Black Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup and Brant migrate through or overwinter. Migrating shorebirds, passerines and raptors can be found throughout the Barnegat Bay system with the greatest concentrations in the fall.

Conservation: Degradation of the Barnegat Bay’s estuarine habitats and water quality is directly related to overdevelopment along the shoreline and in the watershed. The resulting habitat loss and non-point sources of pollution, such as runoff from septic systems, lawns and gardens, impairs the natural ability of the wetlands to purify and absorb water filtering into the bay. Combined with recreational boating, these activities severely impact the integrity of the seagrass beds that provide valuable benthic habitat for the prey of many bird species. Disturbance of waterbird colonies from human activities, especially recreational boating, result in a decline in reproductive activity and suitability of habitat. Colonies of Least Terns and Black Skimmers are particularly susceptible to human disturbance as well as predation by gulls, foxes, raccoons, opossum, cats, and rodents. The establishment of the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis) also compromised habitat structure. A combination of outreach, education, signage, fencing and law enforcement has reduced disturbance of nesting waterbird colonies; however, current efforts should be expanded. Maintenance of natural coastal processes on the barrier islands such as inlet formation, overwash, dune building and erosion cycles are also essential. The coastal forests adjacent to the mainland marshes of Barnegat Bay provide important buffers for the bay and should be protected through acquisitions, conservation easements, regulations and appropriate management.

Additional Information: Site Report
Birds on the bay
Birds on the bayPatrick Belardo