Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is characterized by five habitats: open (salt) water, uplands, salt marsh, and fresh and brackish marshes. Within the area, conditions are primarily natural; few man-made structures remain.
Most Atlantic shorebird species utilize the refuge at some time. Numerous shorebird species rely on the refuge for spring breeding, year-round feeding and roosting, and wintering.
Shorebird species at Cape Romain NWR include:
This refuge is also of critical importance for other species of wildlife. For instance, Bulls Island is home to several hundred American alligators, and utilized by the endangered American Falcon, Wood Stork, Bald Eagle, and Cooper's Hawk, among others. An average of 1,000 threatened Eastern Brown Pelicans nest on the refuge each year. Cape Romain also supports the largest loggerhead sea turtle rookery north of Florida, averaging 1,000 nests per year.
Ecology & Conservation
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is comprised of 66,287 acres extending 22 miles along the South Carolina coast. The refuge consists of barrier islands, salt marshes, tidal flats, oyster bars, and open water. Due to the diverse habitat within the refuge and the remote nature of many of the areas at low tide, a diverse and abundant number of shorebirds use the refuge throughout the year. Twenty-two different species of shorebirds have been observed in Cape Romain NWR (The Chat, Spring 2001). The refuge and the neighboring islands owned by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is collectively known as the Cape Romain Region. This region ranked second only to Delaware Bay in spring, and higher than all presented Atlantic Coast sites during fall in shorebird density (The Chat, Spring 2001). In addition to shorebirds, Cape Romain NWR supports one of the only natural seabird nesting colonies in the state. The area is also important for Neotropical migrants. It also supports the highest density of loggerhead sea turtle nesting north of Florida. The top two threats to the refuge are climate change followed by human population expansion.
Current research being conducted within the refuge focuses on reproductive success of the seabird nesting colonies. In addition, past and current shorebird high-tide roost surveys are being put into GIS and analyzed. Monitoring currently looks at seabird nesting, shorebird nesting (Oystercatcher and Wilson’s Plover), and shorebird high-tide roost surveys.
Documents and refernces: The Chat, Fall 1991 and Spring 2001; Waterbirds 27(1): 83-88, 2004.
Recreation, hunting, fishing.
Land-use restrictions include policies for day-time use only and closed areas for nesting seabirds.
Human population expansion and development, climate change and rising sea levels, and potential for major oil spill(s) or other contamination from nearby Charleston Harbor.
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Marsh Island closed area
Photo credit: Sarah Dawsey USFWS
Photo credit: Ray Paterra USFWS
Tidal creek on Bulls Island
Photo credit: Ray Paterra USFWS
Cape Romain NWR, Awendaw, SC
Cape Romain NWR
5801 Hwy 17, North
Awendaw, South Carolina 29429