Bird Island is the last undeveloped barrier island in Brunswick County, and one of the few remaining natural barrier islands in the mid-Atlantic region. At one time, Bird Island was separated from Sunset Beach by a tidal creek (Mad Inlet) that could only be crossed at low tide. Accretion of sand from storms and conservation efforts has gradually filled in the tidal creek so that two separate islands became one.
Privately owned prior to 2002, Bird Island was a prime target for resort development.
Handwritten pleas, posted in the Kindred Spirit mailbox located on the island (and a destination site in its own right) stopped development of the island. The State of North Carolina used $4.2 million dollars of public and private funding to purchase the land and create a coastal reserve, administered by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management.
Now an uninhabited 1,300 acre State Preserve comprised of salt marsh, tidal creeks, highnatural dunes, and pristine sandy white beaches, Bird Island has become a popular destination. It is one of ten sites that make up the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve. This coastal ecosystem is an outdoor laboratory about processes, functions, and influences that shape and sustain the coastal area.
The shoreline, dunes, and marshland of Bird Island provides important habitat and nesting for species that are endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Guided educational walks to Bird Island are hosted by the Bird Island Preservation Society Stewards. Walks begin at Sunset Beach’s 40th Street walkover and the beach at 8:30 am every Wednesday from June through August, and last about 2 ½ hours.