St. Catherines Island is a barrier island on the coast of Georgia, and located about 50 miles south of Savannah. At 10 miles long and an average of two miles wide, it is comprised mostly of tidal salt marshes and wetland meadows. 6780 acres are upland maritime forests, containing live oak, pine and small ponds. The island provides critical, undisturbed nesting habitat for a wide variety of animals, from Osprey to sea turtles. The island is owned and regulated by the St. Catherines Island Foundation, a non profit organization based in Georgia. It is used for scientific, literary, educational and charitable purposes.

Ornithological Summary

The 11-mile coast of white sandy beaches is used by thousands of resident and migratory shorebirds each year, and the marshes and ponds are used by further thousands of waders and ducks. Large numbers of land birds flow through its maritime forests searching for food. With its undeveloped barrier island status, it ranks with nearby Cumberland Island as one of the most important feeding and over-wintering areas along the Atlantic Coast. Christmas bird counts are conducted annually, as are winter shorebird surveys by the Georgia DNR.

Georgia protected species: American Oystercatcher, piping plover, painted bunting

Notes from CBC for St. Catherines Island: Wood Stork, Bald Eagle, Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Long-billed Curlew, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Sighting Source Key: 1=published reports,; 2=surveys (CBC; BBS; etc.); 3=personal observations; 4=other sources (specify)

Conservation Issues

Disturbance to birds - foot traffic; Natural events - storms, Hurricanes, sea-level rise, fire; Recreation/Tourism - beach walking

Ownership

Owned by the St. Catherines Island Foundation, the island's interior is operated for charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes. The foundation aims to promote conservation of natural resources, the survival of endangered species, and the preservation of historic sites, and to expand human knowledge in the fields of ecology, botany, zoology, natural history, archaeology, and other scientific and educational disciplines.

Habitat

The island is 10 miles long and ranges from 1 to 3 miles wide, with more than half of the island's 14,640 acres composed of tidal marsh and wetland meadows and ponds. The 6,780 acres of upland are densely forested, with pine and live oak being the predominant species. More than 11 miles of beautiful, white sandy beaches wrap around the eastern side of the island. Like most of the other islands on Georgia's coast, St. Catherines has Pleistocene and Holocene segments, with the older, landward part possessing richer soils that support lush subtropical vegetation and the younger, beach section fronting the sea. Where the two epochs meet at the northern end, a dramatic 25-foot bluff is formed, which was used by Guale Indians as an observation point and may be the most unusual geologic feature on any of the Georgia barrier islands. The island serves as an undisturbed habitat for osprey, and averages 119 sea turtle nests each year, trailing only Cumberland, Ossabaw, and Blackbeard islands in popularity with the endangered reptiles.

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