The Birds of Cape Point – Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Point is a popular visitor site at Cape Hatteras National Seashore for many reasons. However, the biggest attraction Cape Point has to offer is the ability for permitted visitors to drive a four-wheel drive vehicle along the shore of the beach. Over the years, there has been constant debate concerning beach driving, as it poses a risk to wildlife that nest along them. Still, there are workarounds that the National Park Service use to protect wildlife in dire situations.

Map of Hatteras Island showing the locations of Cape Point and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Such a situation occurred on June 28th, when it was discovered that an American Oystercatcher chick had hatched from a nest found at Cape Point, located on the southeast side of Hatteras Island. Immediately after the nest was found, a boundary was put up to protect the nest and the area, which was scattered with nests of birds such as Least Terns, Royal Terns, and Black Skimmers. With the enclosure set up, much of the access to Cape Point was reduced for visitors and off-road vehicles, so it was expected that many visitors would have questions as to why. To answer these questions, the three divisions of the park, the Interpretive, Resource Management, and Maintenance divisions, would be assigned shifts throughout the day to patrol the area, prevent visitors from entering the enclosure, and update visitors about the closure and answer any questions they may have.

Left: Map of the Cape Point Bird Enclosure, the updated patrol points, and the updated enclosure boundary as of July 2nd, 2023. Right: Picture of the Cape Point Bird Enclosure after the boundary was reduced.

At the time of the initial closure, I was in the process of finding an ideal location to set up a resource table, which would teach visitors about shorebirds and what the park is doing to protect them, so when I learned that I would be going out to Cape Point to patrol the
enclosure, I knew this was where I had to set it up. Every patrol shift lasted two hours, which gave me enough time to set up a table and a
shade at the patrol locations and talk to a handful of guests who wanted to know more about the abundance of birds within the enclosure.


The enclosure is set to open up again for visitors towards the end of the summer, when chicks have grown to the point where they can support themselves, but until then the popular visitor destination will be closed to the public until further notice.

A Female American Oystercatcher guarding her nest at Cape Point.

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