Friends of Parker River NWR

The Boardwalk

One of the Boardwalks

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Watch the movie

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Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Wilelife Refuge

Parker River Wildlife RefugeParker River National Wildlife Refuge

A Refuge for Birds

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 primarily to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge is of vital stopover significance to waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds during pre- and postbreeding migratory periods.

Diverse Habitats Support Diverse Wildlife

HeronThe refuge consists of 4,662 acres (1,883 hectares) of diverse upland and wetland habitats including sandy beach and dune, shrub/thicket, bog, swamp, freshwater marsh, salt marsh and associated creek, river, mud flat, and salt panne. These and other refuge habitats support varied and abundant populations of resident and migratory wildlife including more than 350 species of birds and additional species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants.Piping Plover with Chicks

Managing for Wildlife

A variety of management practices are in use at the refuge to enhance its value to wildlife. While visiting the refuge you may see evidence of some of these procedures.

Mowing and Burning


Portions of refuge lands are mowed to maintain open habitats, providing food and cover for such migratory bird species as American woodcock and bobolink.

Freshwater marshes and other grasslands are burned to return nutrients to the soil and to promote new growth by reducing decomposing vegetation.

Through mowing and other means, refuge habitats are sometimes manipulated for the benefit of wildlife.

Applying Herbicides and Releasing Non-native Insects

Invasive pest plants diminish the wildlife food and protective cover values of refuge habitats by displacing native plant species. These weeds are controlled in part through the application of herbicides and the release of non-native insects that feed specifically on these plants.

Controlling Water Levels

Impoundment water levels are lowered to expose mud flat feeding and resting areas for migratory shorebirds and to promote the growth of certain wetland food plants favored by various species of ducks. This technique may also benefit herons, river otter, and other wildlife by concentrating fish and other prey in shallow pools.

Erecting Nest Structures

Nest boxes are erected and maintained for purple martin and other cavity-nesting birds and elevated nesting platforms are situated near refuge water bodies to attract osprey.

Also, the refuge, conservation organizations, and universities conduct on-site biological investigations to further human understanding of wildlife and their habitats. Examples include bird banding studies and wildlife population surveys. When applicable, information gained by this research is put to practical use at the refuge.

Behind the Scenes Tour of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Newburyport-Today joined the refuge ranger, Erika, for a behind the scenes tour of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Tour was conducted via refuge van, with several brief “drive by” stops along the way. It was an “up close and personal” look at the refuge through the multiple lenses of the cultural history of Plum Island and the Great Marsh, native wildlife and their habitats, and the role of refuge management in the conservation of these precious natural resources. Participants visited areas on the refuge that are otherwise closed to the public.

Fifteen Year Refuge Planning

The Home page for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Parker River and Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuges is found by clicking here.



We must embrace and lead change, not just within ourselves and our organization, but across the entire conservation community.


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Meet the National Wildlife Refuge System

The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System:
To administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of the present and future generations of Americans,. – National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.

Meet the National Wildlife
Refuge System

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America's Hidden Lands A Proposal to Discover Our National Wildlife Refuge System

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