Parnell Island is a dredged-sand island
located in northeastern Pamlico Sound near Oregon Inlet. The island was created entirely of sand dredged from the
nearby navigation channel. From 2000 to 2005, the island received regular deposits of dredged sand, placed so as to create the right slope, elevation, and dredged material for an ideal nesting site, and eventually it was high enough to support nesting birds. Since 2005, the site has supported many terns and Black Skimmers.

Ornithological Summary

Parnell Island has become an important nesting site for terns and skimmers in Pamlico Sound. It requires periodic deposits of dredged sand to maintain habitats. One to two pairs of American Oystercatchers also nest on the island. One pair of Great Black-backed Gulls began nesting on the island in 2007.

Conservation Issues

Disturbance to nesting birds is a serious concern.

Even though the island is posted, disturbance to nesting birds remains a concern. Maintenance of the island with dredged sand is important to the continued viability of the site as a nesting site for terns and skimmers. The impact of Great Black-backed Gulls on nesting terns should be monitored.


The site is protected and managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Like other state-owned waterbird nesting sites, the island is posted and patrolled, and off-limits to all visitors from April 1st to August 31st. This is essential to the protection of nesting waterbirds.


Bare sand, scattered grasses, and herbaceous vegetation.

Land Use


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