Duck Island

Location

Westbrook, CT

Anchor Site(s)

Duck Island Natural Area Preserve

About the Site

Duck Island is a 5.6-acre state-owned island that supports the largest egret rookery in eastern Connecticut. Accessible by boat for only half the year, it is a rare undeveloped island along Connecticut’s shoreline. Wading birds nest on Duck Island every summer, and its habitat for the state-threatened snowy and great egret is one reason why it is recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. It is often considered in connection with Menunketesuck Island, a larger nearby island that supports rare birdlife in conjunction with passive recreation activities.

Ecological Importance
  • Duck Island has the largest egret rookery in eastern Connecticut.
  • It is a rare undeveloped island off coastal Connecticut.
  • It is designated by Audubon as an Important Bird Area, supporting numerous birds including 50-100 pairs of snowy egrets, over 25 pairs of great egrets, nesting glossy ibis, black-crowned night-heron, and little blue heron.
  • The intertidal zone supports healthy populations of fish, mollusks, and other invertebrates, which are important food sources for other wildlife.
Recreational Opportunities
  • Boaters can land on the island, but only in September through May. During the summer months, the island is closed to protect nesting seabirds. 
  • Go fishing in the waters surrounding the island. The muddy areas around the island are a great place to look for shellfish.  
  • From the nearby Middle Beach, walk over to Salt Island. Though this may be easier to do at low tide, the water is shallow enough to access Salt Island all day long. 
Dive Deeper

Audubon CT: Menunketesuck

This Audubon web page describes why Duck Island and its neighboring Menunketesuck Island are a combined Audubon Important Bird Area.

Courant: “Once a Home for Summer Fun, Island Now a Refuge for the Birds”

This news article from 1999 details the history of Duck Island and the process of  converting it into a wildlife refuge, told from the man who last purchased the  island. 

Hidden History of Middlesex County, Connecticut   

Check out this book by Kathleen and Robert Hubbard about Middlesex County  history. You can purchase the book here, or find an online version at this link. Be  on the lookout for mentions of the Westbrook Barrier Islands! 

Places to Visit

Menunketesuck Island

Duck Island is connected to the mainland via a gravel and shell bar that is difficult to cross even during low tide. As a result, transport to the island is typically via boat or kayak. The gravel and shell bars are excellent sites for shorebird viewing during spring and fall migration. The island is closed to the public from April through September, during the nesting season.

Middle Beach 

Middle Beach is a small beach located  in a suburban neighborhood. From there, you can walk or paddle out to  Salt Island, a small barrier island 500 feet from the coast. 

Salt Meadow at the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge 

Here you will find trails, an observation platform, facilities, and even an environmental education center. Before you go, check out the map. 

Get Involved/Events
  • Check out the Friends of the Westbrook Barrier Island’s Facebook page for the most up-to-date information and events. 
  • The Town of Westbrook posts all town events in the calendar. Events can include town meetings, local events, and aerobic classes. 
  • Visit the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge website to find out about internships, volunteering, and local friend groups.  
Field Notes
  • Duck Island is accessible September through May, when shorebirds are not nesting. 
  • Be careful walking about the island, as poison ivy is known to be plentiful there. 
  • Beware of strong tides and currents when boating around the island. Avoid going out in strong winds. 
Credits
  • Menunketesuck. Ct.audubon.org. Audubon Connecticut. Web. Oct.15, 2012.
  • Menunketesuck Island – Manomet. Manomet.org. Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. Web. Oct. 22, 2012.
  • Once a Home for Summer Fun, Island Now a Refuge for Birds. courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-1999-07-20-9907200362-story.html. Hartford Courant. Web. June 15, 2021.

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