Wildlife Viewing Areas
 Search the U.S.
Find an AnimalFind a Viewing AreaPlan a TripAboutContact


Purchase the New York wildlife viewing guide

NY DEC Watchable Wildlife

Outdoor Discovery

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 also common.

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 winter here.

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 grasses below.

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

RestroomsParkingFishingHikingPicnic tablesHandicap AccessibleFeeLarge BoatsSmall BoatsDrinking WaterSwimmingBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

White-tailed Deer Fawn - Photo by Bill Banaszewski
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
From Rte. 27/Sunrise Hwy., take exit 46 toward County Rd. 17/ Carleton Ave. and East and Central Islip. Merge onto Sunrise South Service Rd. After 1.1 miles, take the Heckscher State Pkwy. south to Heckscher State Park.

631-581-2100, Heckscher Pkwy. Field 1, East Islip, NY 11730, www.nysparks.com

Map Link

Heckscher State Park : Wildlife Viewing Area