- The 8,646-acre Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge is on the north side of Currituck Sound, which has long been recognized for supporting significant migratory waterfowl populations and sport fishery resources.
The refuge is strategically located along the Atlantic Flyway, making it an important wintering area for ducks, geese and tundra swans. It was established for migratory waterfowl, primarily the Greater Snow Goose. Many other wildlife species such as wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, neotropical migrants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians use refuge habitat for food, cover and nesting.
Fresh and brackish water fishery resources are excellent in the refuge impoundment's (diked ponds), canals, and bays. About 74 percent of the refuge is in slightly brackish marsh habitat, which is dominated by cattails, black needlerush, and giant cordgrass. The remaining habitat is typical upland and lowland Eastern pine-hardwood forest (i.e., loblolly pine, sweet gum, black gum, cypress, red maple, hickory, and oak).
Before the Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the refuge in 1960, several famous persons owned the property. John Mackie acquired the property, then known as "Orphan's Island," in 1761. It then became known as "Mackie's Island." It is unknown how the name eventually became changed from "Mackie" to "Mackay." After Mr. Mackie's death in 1823, ownership of the island changed several times in the 1800's and the early 1900's, when Thomas Dixon, author of "The Birth of a Nation," purchased it in 1916. In 1918, wealthy publisher and insurance magnate Joseph P. Knapp purchased the property. Mr. Knapp, a philanthropist and wildlife conservationist, founded the organization that eventually became the premiere, private waterfowl conservation organization in North America, Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Climate - Winter daytime temperatures average above 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius). Summer daytime temperatures range above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). The state has a fairly wet climate with an average precipitation for this area averaging 48 to 52 inches (122 to 132 centimeters).
The 8,646-acre Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge is on the north side of Currituck Sound just south of the Virginia state line.