Prudence and Patience Islands are located in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. Prudence Island, together with Conanicut Island to the south, form the dividing line between Narragansett Bay's East and West Passages. Prudence Island and its smaller sister island, Patience Island, both lie within the municipal jurisdiction of the Town of Portsmouth in Newport County.

Patience Island is uninhabited. Prudence Island is partially developed with a summer cottage community with a population of over 1,000 people. Over 70% of the island is under some sort of conservation management.

The Narragansett Bay Research Reserve?s Lab & Learning Center is located at the south end of Prudence Island. The Center is equipped with educational exhibits, a public meeting area, library, and research lab facilities used by staff and visiting scientists.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|}

Ornithological Summary

Three large salt marshes along with associated fringe marsh on the north end of Prudence Island and an additional marsh on the adjacent Patience Island together provide habitat for a sizeable Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow population.

The large salt marshes at the north end of Prudence Island are used as feeding areas by a number of long-legged wading birds (e.g., herons, egrets and their allies) such as Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron and Glossy Ibis*.


Willets and yellowlegs are familiar shorebirds within these marshes.

Conservation Issues

Invasion of the high marsh by Common Reed can impact the preferred breeding habitat of the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Given the low level of residential/commercial/industrial development and lack of nutrient pollution within and adjacent to the IBA, the threat of phragmites invasion at this IBA is not as eminent as at other sites in Rhode Island. Due to the low elevation of the IBA, impact from hurricanes, coastal storms, and sea level rise is a threat to the breeding populations of species of conservation concern, with the latter threat anticipated in the longer term but with potential for greater permanent impact, should future development prevent the landward migration of the salt marshes with concurrent sea level rise.


Patience Island is largely privately owned. Prudence Island is owned by private, municipal, state, and federal entities. The northern portion of Prudence Island is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System which is "a network of protected areas established for long-term research, education and stewardship". The program consists of partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the coastal states of the nation. The lands included in this program protect more than one million acres of estuarine land and water. These lands are protected in order to provide essential habitat for flora and fauna; provide educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public; and to serve as "living laboratories" available for scientific research.


Forest, salt marsh, and coastal shrub habitats dominate the landscape on Prudence and Patience Islands. Salt marsh habitats include both low marsh and high marsh zones. Forest are predominantly oak-hickory associations. Areas of dense shrub growth are dominated by bayberry, blueberry, northern arrowwood, shadbush or a combination thereof. Areas of shrubland are often interspersed with red cedar, red maple, black cherry, pitch pine and oak. Green brier adds to the vegetation structural diversity as a dominant liana in some areas. The non-native invasive Asiatic bittersweet also has significant coverage within the island habitats*.

Land Use

Almost half of the IBA's areas spans the open water between the marshes at Prudence and Patience Islands. The actual marshland area is owned by RIDEM (34.8% of the IBA) or lies in private ownership (17.3%).

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.