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• Intro / Home
• Historical Neighbors
• Street and Backyard

• Park and Green Places

• Shore and Wetlands

• Salt and Freshwater

• Tiny Neighbors
• Unwelcome Neighbors
• Occasional and
  Unexpected Neighbors

• Wildlife Sighting Log
• Resources

• Hours and Tours


 Shore and Wetlands Neighbors
Shore Intro | Image: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

New York City’s 578 diverse miles of shoreline include beaches, rocky banks, salt marshes, and landfill waterfront. There are also uninhabited islets in the harbors and rivers and, inland, freshwater marshes, streams, lakes, and man-made reservoirs and ponds. This section is devoted to the waterfowl, shorebirds, amphibians, turtles, and shore crabs who inhabit these shores and wetlands.

The Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 initiated a turnaround from a dismal past of increasingly polluted waters. In the years since its passage, improving habitats have supported growing populations of wetland wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. The year 1972 also saw the creation of Gateway National Recreation Area, under the stewardship of the National Park Service, which incorporated various important natural shorelands, mostly within city boundaries: the Jamaica Bay and Breezy Point complexes and other land in the Rockaways, and parklands on eastern Staten Island.

A consortium of international conservation groups has designated Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, together with six other sites in the city, as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Other wetland IBAs within the city are North and South Brother Islands in the East River, part of the Harbor Herons Complex, which includes three islands off northwestern Staten Island, together with adjacent wetlands. All furnish roosting and nesting sites for expanding populations of water birds, such as herons, egrets, ibises, and cormorants. In addition, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a rest stop for migrants and a seasonal home to such species as Snow Geese, who winter at the Refuge in huge flocks.

All the news is not upbeat, however. Jamaica Bay marsh grasses, vital to the health of the complex ecosystem, have been dying for some years, causing the mudflats to wash away. Experts foresee the disappearance of these marshlands within twenty years if this erosion is not halted.

Check out the sighting log to record your interaction with some of the native New York City wildlife featured in Urban Neighbors. You may also browse the sighting log by animal, borough, park or natural area, and/or habitat to view a sighting you have submitted or to read others’ observations.




Wood Duck / NYPL


American Bittern /


Osprey / Don Riepe, National Park Service


Diamondback Terrapin / NYPL


Bullfrog / NYPL