Cumberland Island National Seashore encompasses most of the largest and most southerly island off the coast of Georgia. The island's unspoiled environment provides a unique opportunity to experience the flora and fauna of a natural coastal ecosystem.
Georgia’s coastline is a unique blend of saltmarsh meadows and coastal pinelands bordered by a near-continuous line of Atlantic barrier islands. Thanks to wise conservation and aggressive land acquisition, many of these "sea islands" have been preserved. Cumberland Island is 17.5 miles long and totals 36,415 acres, of which 16,850 are marsh, mud flats, and tidal creeks. It is well known for its sea turtles, abundant shore birds, dune fields, maritime forests, salt marshes, and historic structures.
All of the Georgia sea islands are outstanding birding destinations. It is possible to see more than 100 species in a single day at several of the sites, and more than 200 species are known to occur here. Specialties include Limpkins, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Wood Storks, Purple Gallinules, and Painted Buntings. At least 18 warbler and 24 shorebird species pass through during various times of the year, and 23 species of ducks, geese, and mergansers frequent the area in winter.
Barrier islands -- long, narrow, sandy islands that run parallel to the coast, like Cumberland Island -- are among the world’s most restless landforms. Powerful ocean waves and strong littoral currents continually erode and reshape them, lengthening, shortening, and sometimes moving them considerable distances along the shoreline in relatively short periods of time. The landward sides of barrier islands are often bordered by extensive salt marshes and tidal flats, while their seaward edges are lined with open beaches and sparsely vegetated dunes. Separated from the mainland, these islands provide critical protection for endangered sea turtles, which nest along their sandy beaches, as well as for multitudes of songbirds and shorebirds that use them as migration stopovers and wintering grounds.
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