Success Stories: Tidal Marsh Herons and Egrets: West Marin Island

John Kelly

Snowy Egret with nest material

Snowy Egret with nest material

The West Marin Island National Wildlife Refuge is a protected home to one of the largest nesting colonies of herons and egrets in San Francisco Bay, and is a true bird conservation success story. During the 1980s the Marin Islands were slated for development. Over the next 12 years, local citizens, the Friends of the Marin Islands, the California Coastal Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and at least 14 other agencies and organizations participated in the establishment of the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge and State Ecological Reserve. Senator Barbara Boxer designated September 19th as Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge Day in 1992.

The establishment of West Marin Island Wildlife Refuge was largely due to data provided by ongoing monitoring, which began in 1979 and documented the importance of the island to nesting herons and egrets. Region-wide monitoring of heronries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area by Audubon Canyon Ranch substantiated the importance of this nesting colony and now guides the management of the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Today the Refuge is home to over 500 nesting pairs of herons and egrets each year.