Important Bird Areas

Central Chesapeake Islands

Maryland

This archipelago in the Chesapeake Bay, which includes Smith Island, South Marsh Island, Bloodsworth Island and a number of smaller associated islands, is Maryland's premier wadingbird nesting area. . The site is under Federal, State and private ownership. The Martin National Wildlife Refuge on Smith Island is owned and managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Bloodsworth Island is a US Naval Reservation, owned by the US Navy. South Marsh Island is managed as a Wildlife Management Area by Maryland DNR.

Ornithological Summary

A statewide survey of colonial waterbirds done by Maryland DNR in 2003 found 30% of the State?s wadingbird (herons, egrets and ibises) population nesting here in 17 individual colonies, the largest of which contains over 1,300 pairs. This IBA supports 85% or more of Maryland?s population of three heron species rare in the State, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The islands support a reasonably diverse community of saltmarsh-nesting birds with 9 species regularly breeding. These include two Audubon/American Bird Conservancy WatchList species (Red category: Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow) and a species of high regional conservation priority, Clapper Rail. Other at-risk species breeding on the islands include: American Oystercatcher, Peregrine Falcon and Maryland?s only colony of Brown Pelican.

Conservation Issues

Some islands are experiencing severe erosion and habitat loss, at rates of up to 12 feet of shoreline per year. Sea-level rise is a long-term problem which will exacerbate marsh loss and erosion. Mute swans, an introduced species, damage beds of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).

Ownership

The site is under Federal, State and private ownership. The Martin National Wildlife Refuge on Smith Island is owned and managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Bloodsworth Island is a US Naval Reservation, owned by the US Navy. South Marsh Island is managed as a Wildlife Management Area by Maryland DNR.