Carrot Island and Bird Shoal are part of the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve. The site sits immediately east of the town of Beaufort, between Beaufort and Shackleford Banks. The entire reserve consists of several contiguous islands and marsh areas?Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island.

Ornithological Summary

The Rachel Carson reserve site contains a large number of habitats, particularly wetland types, that occur in close proximity. Among these habitats are extensive intertidal mud and sand flats, ideal foraging areas for waterbirds. (The following description is excerpted from Fussell and Wilson, 1983) "The Carrot Island-Bird Shoal complex is notable as a a major roosting area for waterbirds, and having a rich diversity of shorebirds. It has probably the richest diversity of intertidal shorebirds of any area in North Carolina. Although there is relatively little waterbird nesting on the complex, it is an important feeding area for young birds from nesting sites near Cape Lookout, near Fort Macon, and in the lower Newport River. At certain times of the year, Carrot Island-Bird Shoal serves as a roosting areas for thousands of birds. Particularly large concentrations exist in the fall. The narrow inlet beach is the main roosting area Carrot Island-Bird Shoal may be extremely valuable to migrating species."

Conservation Issues

Disturbance to birds, commercial development, logging and tree cutting on private lands.

Logging resulting in the fragmentation and loss of privately owned swamp forest is a primary concern. Buffer zones along the river and swamp forest should be established. Audubon North Carolina, The Nature Conservancy, and other organizations have formed the Albemarle-Pamlico Conservation and Communities Cooperative to plan for conservation in the region, including planning for sea level rise. More extensive surveys of landbirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl during breeding, migration, and winter are needed.


Approximately 50 percent of the site is in state ownership and includes Merchants Millpond State Park and Chowan Swamp Game Lands, which are protected and managed by North Carolina State Parks and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission respectively. Recent acquisitions from private industrial forestlands owners have added to the protected lands in this Important Bird Area. The remaining acreage is privately owned.


Swamp forests with bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), red maple (Acer rubrum), tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda); mixed forests with beech (Fagus grandifolia) and mesophytic oaks; lake with cypresstupelo swamp and a diversity of floating and submerged aquatics.

Land Use

Wildlife conservation, hunting, recreation and tourism.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.