The lagoon-like complex at the Zeke’s Island site is one of the most unusual areas of the North Carolina coast.
Zeke’s Island Reserve is located in the Cape Fear River basin and was one of the three original National Estuarine Research Reserve components dedicated by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Division of Coastal Management in 1985. The lagoon-like inter-tidal complex found at the Zeke's Island Reserve is one of the most important shorebird feeding habitats on the East Coast. Bird species such as dunlin, black-bellied plovers, short-billed dowitchers, white ibis, and great blue herons as well as black ducks, mallards, and pintails have been recorded at Zeke's Island.
While shoals and marshes have continued to appear and disappear within the Basin, Zeke’s, No Name, and North Islands have remained stable relative to the beach barrier spit, even though their shorelines periodically increase and erode. Zeke’s and No Name Islands have elevations of only a few feet, while North Island has several scattered dune systems, one of which reaches to twenty feet above sea level. The unusual characteristics of the site have created a variety of habitats, including tidal flats, salt marshes, shrub thicket, maritime forest, sand dunes, ocean beach, and the hard surface of the rocks. Beach amaranth has been found on the site’s foredune areas. Fish, shrimp, crabs, clams, and oysters use the estuary as a nursery ground. Both the Atlantic loggerhead and green sea turtles, federally protected threatened species, occasionally nest on the site’s open beaches. The expanse of intertidal flats in the Zeke’s Island vicinity is the single most important shorebird habitat in southeastern North Carolina.