Heckscher State Park
|Description: This park is known locally as the “home of the white-tailed deer.” Each year
visitors by the thousands come to this state park near East Islip, midway along
Long Island’s south shore, to see one of the island’s largest populations of these
graceful and beautiful animals.|
Located within the South Shore Estuary Reserve, the park borders Long Island’s
Great South Bay. The landscape here is a combination of bay, beach, ponds, salt
marshes, fields and woodlands, where diverse varieties of birds, mammals, fish
and crabs find food and shelter. In fact, more than 280 species of resident and
migratory birds have been seen here.
A circular road around the perimeter of the park and several miles of paved
trails take people into numerous viewing locations to observe white-tailed deer
and other wildlife. This is an excellent site for those who are unable to walk
long distances or who need a hard surface to use a wheelchair.
Wildlife to Watch: In addition to deer, you’ll see eastern cottontail rabbits early in the morning
or late in the day, often without leaving your car. Sightings of red foxes are
From fall through spring, brant and greater scaup are commonly seen in ponds
and salt marshes, as are double-crested cormorants in the bay. Long-tailed
ducks, buffleheads, common goldeneyes and red-breasted mergansers are sighted primarily in fall and winter. Canada geese, red-tailed hawks, mallards
and American black ducks are common sights year-round.
Wading birds like great and snowy egrets and glossy ibises frequent the
marshes during the spring and summer. Great blue herons stay through the
The piercing cries of ring-billed, herring and great black-backed gulls can be
heard along the shore all year long. In summer, they are joined by the calls of
laughing gulls and common and least terns.
Occasionally, ospreys construct their nests within sight of the bike path, and
northern harriers are sometimes seen hunting in the salt marsh. Aerobatic
tree and barn swallows swoop through the air after insects, while red-winged
blackbirds, common grackles and brown-headed cowbirds feed amid the marsh
The waters of Great South Bay hold wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities
as well. Take a walk along the boat basin to see slender pipefish or the silvery
flashes of thousands of snapper bluefish in spring and summer. Feisty, blue
claw crabs scuttle around in shallow tidal pools.
The open woodlands are favorite habitat for rufous-sided towhees and several
sparrow species, blue jays, crows, kinglets, vireos, various kinds of warblers,
woodpeckers and thrushes.
Special Tips: The park is open year-round. There is a vehicle entrance fee from
April to mid-October. Fishing is allowed in season.
Other Activities: Twenty miles of trails attract hikers, bicyclers and cross-country skiers.
Ownership: NYS office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Size: 1,679 acres
Closest Town: East Islip
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: