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Habitats

American wigeon - J & K Hollingsworth.

Over the last decade, the refuge’s habitat management has focused on increasing the diversity of habitats and wildlife species on the refuge. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, biological diversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the massive diversity of genes in these species, and the different ecosystems on Earth are all part of biodiversity. A biodiverse ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem, and world-wide, can provide important benefits to wildlife and to people. Four main types of habitats add to the refuge’s biodiversity.

  • Marsh

    All of the refuge’s pools are man-made and have been developed into emergent marshes. Keeping the refuge a productive place for wildlife is all about the water! All of the refuge pools are shallow, averaging about 1.5 feet deep. The actual depth of the water in any pool at any given season is carefully planned and managed to create the best “mix” of plants and open water. Ideally, this “mix” is 1/3 emergent plants (like cattail), 1/3 submerged aquatics (like bladderwort), and 1/3 open water. Such a mix provides prime habitat for wildlife to rest, feed, nest, and rear young by offering food (plants, insects and crustaceans), shelter, nesting materials, and water.

    To keep the ideal mix of plants and water for wildlife, the refuge’s pools are drained periodically, exposing the soil to warm sunlight. This allows new plants to grow. To refill the pool, water is either pumped in small volumes from canal to pool or the pool is filled by rain.

    Certain marsh areas on the refuge are managed to produce shorebird habitat. These areas are drained in the spring, and then in mid- to late-summer, they get disked, turning up the soil. A shallow sheet of water pumped into the area creates a mudflat—the perfect conditions for shorebirds to find food (insects and other invertebrates inhabiting the mud).

  • Grassland

    Grasslands provide critical habitat to migratory birds and other wildlife. Whether providing a place to nest for mallards and bobolink, or feeding grounds for hawks and fox, grasslands are critical to Montezuma. To prevent the encroachment of woody plants and undesirable species, refuge staff and partners use prescribed burning, periodic mowing, and the planting of desirable grass and wildflower seed mixes. Certain birds rely on grasslands for nesting, so these areas are not disturbed during nesting season. The short-eared owl, endangered in New York State, depends on Montezuma grasslands and marshes for wintering habitat, using these open areas to hunt their prey.

    Short-eared owl factsheet (pdf)

  • Shrubland

    Shrublands are dominated by small trees and shrubs, and also include grasses and other plants. They offer important food and cover to a variety of wildlife. Refuge shrublands are diverse from location to location with dominant plants including goldenrod, gray dogwood, Morrow’s honeysuckle, and common buckthorn. Only two areas on the refuge are actively maintained in this early successional state.

  • Forest

    The refuge boasts two types of forest, upland and bottomland hardwood. Certain birds require the forest canopy for their survival. For example, cerulean warblers feed high in the trees and nest mid-way, relying on forested areas along waterways as breeding grounds. Upland forested sites on the refuge are mostly successional forests dominated by black walnut, black willow, and green ash occurring on former agricultural fields. Most of the mature forested sites on the refuge are wetlands. Major plant life includes red and silver maple, American elm, green ash, and swamp white oak. The understory is sparse, and includes common winterberry, northern spicebush, and highbush blueberry, which generally grow on hummocks throughout the forest. As micro-habitats transition between hummocks and vernal pools, plants include sensitive fern, marsh fern, skunk cabbage, and false nettle.

    Cerulean warbler factsheet (pdf)

Page Photo Credits — American wigeon - J & K Hollingsworth.
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2014
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