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National Wildlife Refuge

American black duck (copyright Ed Sambolin)
340 Smith Rd.
Shirley, NY   11967
E-mail: longislandrefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 631-286-0485
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Wertheim's Carman's River estuary offers prime wintering habitat for declining black duck populations. (copyright Ed Sambolin)
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  Wildlife and Habitat

Continued . . .

... Wetlands

Intertidal Marsh (1.6%) - The intertidal marsh is flooded daily by the tide and the vegetation is dominated by tall growth form cordgrass.

High Marsh (12.2%) - High marsh is dominated by salt hay, short growth form cordgrass, salt grass, black grass, and saltmarsh bulrush. High marsh occurs between the intertidal marsh and terrestrial lands. High marsh is flooded either during high rainfall events, spring tides, or above normal high tides.

Robust Emergent Marsh (13.2%) - The vegetation is dominated by either great reed, cattails, brackish cordgrass, or bulrush. The height of the vegetation ranges from three to twelve feet.

Shrub Swamp (1.5%) - These habitats are dominated by arrowwood, swamp loosestrife , willow , and alder. Shrub swamps typically occur on the edges of marshes and streams. Shrub height ranges from three to ten feet.

Aquatic Habitats Open Water (17.8%) - This habitat type consists of subtidal, tidal, and nontidal waters. This acreage also includes freshwater and brackish ponds/impoundments. Common vegetative species of these open water areas include: eel grass, green fleece, sea lettuce, waterweed, sago pondweed, widgeon grass, bladderwort, and ribbon grass.

Fish and Wildlife Close to 500 vertebrate species and approximately 500 species of vascular plants have been documented at the Wertheim NWR. The Refuge encompasses many of the vegetation types on Long Island, providing habitat for a variety of wildlife ranging from forest interior nesting, neotropical migrant birds to marine mammals. The coastal location of the Refuge also makes it part of a major migration corridor for a variety of birds including waterfowl, waterbirds, raptors, and songbirds.

Raptors--The coastal location of the Refuge makes it an important migratory habitat for certain raptor speciesin particular the northern harrier, osprey, peregrine falcon, sharp shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, kestrel , merlin, saw whet owl, and short eared owl. Common nesting raptors include osprey, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, and screech owl.

Waterfowl--Waterfowl use is extensive and the Refuge serves as important wintering habitat for waterfowl from October through April. Principal species include black duck, greater scaup, bufflehead, red-breasted merganser, and Atlantic brant. Wood ducks and black ducks are common nesters at the Refuge.

Waterbirds, Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns and Allied Species--Waterbird use is common with peak periods for long legged wading birds, terns, shorebirds and other waterbirds occurring in the warmer months. Nine species of herons, egrets and ibises are commonly observed on the Refuge. Great blue herons, snowy egrets, green herons, and great egrets are most common. Great blue herons are present year round; green herons are present from May through September; snowy egrets are present from April through October; and great egrets are present from April through September. The number of long legged wading birds peaks in August and there is a smaller peak earlier in April. American bitterns are conspicuous during the winter months.

Other marsh and waterbird species observed on the Refuge include double-crested cormorant, common loon, horned grebe, pied-billed grebe, red-necked grebe, sora, and belted kingfisher.

Four species of gullsherring, great black backed, ring billed and laughingare commonly observed on the Refuge. Herring gulls are the most common and are present year round. Great black-backed gulls are the second most common species. Two species of ternsleast and commonare observed on the Refuge from May through August.

Other shorebirds observed include greater yellowlegs, least sandpiper, black-bellied plover , killdeer, spotted sandpiper, short-billed dowitcher, lesser yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, dunlin, and willet. Shorebird numbers peaked in August, with high numbers also present during the months of May, July and September.

Other Migratory Birds--Songbirds are a conspicuous component at the Wertheim NWR and a major attraction for many of the visitors. The songbird community is diverse and includes many neotropical migrant species. Dominant breeding songbirds of forested habitats include ovenbird, American redstart, yellowthroat, catbird, rufous-sided towhee, great crested flycatcher, eastern wood peewee, blue jay, Carolina wren, wood thrush, red eyed vireo, pine warbler, and northern oriole.

Dominant breeding songbirds of shrub and grassland habitats include song sparrow, tree swallow, blue winged warbler, yellow warbler, prairie warbler, mockingbird, barn swallow, house wren, eastern bluebird, northern cardinal, and American goldfinch. Breeding birds of tidal wetlands are dominated by the sharp-tailed sparrow, marsh wren, song sparrow, seaside sparrow, red winged blackbird, and the tree swallow.

The Refuge also provides important stop-over habitat during migration for many species using the coastal migration corridor. Dominant winter songbirds at the Refuge include the white throated sparrow, dark eyed junco, black capped chickadee, white breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, northern cardinal, blue jay, brown creeper, and the American tree sparrow. Purple finch, evening grosbeak, white winged crossbill, red crossbill, and the pine sisken make extensive use of the Refuge during periodic hard winters.

Reptiles and Amphibians--Approximately thirty species of reptiles and amphibians occur at the Refuge. Dominant freshwater reptiles include the eastern snapping turtle, eastern painted turtle, spotted turtle, and the northern watersnake. The dominant reptiles in the tidal habitats are diamondback terrapins and loggerhead sea turtle. Eastern box turtle, black racer, eastern milk snake, eastern ribbon snake, and the common garter snake are the dominant reptile species of terrestrial habitats. Eastern box turtles and eastern hognose snakes are of interest because of the perceived current decline of these species on Long Island where both were once considered abundant and dominant species. The eastern mud turtle, common at Wertheim NWR, is a New York State designated endangered species.

The dominant amphibians at the Wertheim NWR include red backed salamander, bullfrog, green frog, wood frog, Fowler's toad and spring peeper.

Other Resident Wildlife--Approximately thirty species of mammals have been documented at the Refuge. White-tailed deer, eastern cottontail, gray squirrel, red fox, eastern chipmunk, and muskrat are attractions for visitors. Other mammals include southern flying squirrel, gray squirrel, eastern mole, white-footed mouse, meadow vole, red fox, opossum, short-tailed shrew and raccoon. The dominant aquatic mammal is the muskrat. Bats comprise about a quarter of the mammalian species at the Refuge. The little brown bat, big brown bat, eastern pipistrelle, and the red bat are the most common.

Fish--The fish community reflects a diversity of habitats. Saltmarshes support an interesting array of killifish species, bays provide seasonal habitat for many important commercial marine species, tidal rivers and streams support both catadromous and anadromous species, freshwater streams serve as trout habitat, and ponds and impoundments support warm water fisheries. More than 100 species of fish occur at the Refuge. Dominant species include American eel, Atlantic silversides, summer flounder, pumpkinseed , blueback herring, menhaden, alewife, marsh killifish, banded killifish , sheepshead minnow , bay anchovy, striped bass, winter flounder, bluefish, hogchoker, and northern pipefish. Common recreational game species include American eel, summer flounder, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, pickerel, cunner, white perch, striped bass, winter flounder, bluefish, rainbow trout and scup.

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species Federally designated endangered and threatened species which occur at Wertheim NWR include bald eagle, piping plover, roseate tern and loggerhead sea turtle. The sea turtle is dependant exclusively on subtidal habitats. The piping plover and roseate tern are associated with subtidal and/or strand habitats and are irregular visitors to the Refuge. Bald eagles principally use the refuge during migration or for wintering. They are associated with aquatic/wetland habitats and adjacent terrestrial borders.

New York State designated threatened and endangered species (not including species also designated by federal authorities) which occur at the Wertheim Refuge include the northern harrier, common tern, least tern, black tern, least bittern, black rail, upland sandpiper, short-eared owl, sedge wren, loggerhead shrike and eastern mud turtle. The three tern species make use of aquatic and strand habitats. Northern harriers make use of emergent wetlands and grasslands. The eastern mud turtle uses emergent wetlands, mature pitch pine and oak-pitch pine stands as hibernation sites, and warm season grasslands as nesting sites.

Eighteen other rare species or species of special concern (USFWS Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern or New York State Species of Special Concern) which occur on the Wertheim Refuge include: osprey, common loon, American bittern, northern goshawk, red-shouldered hawk, red-headed woodpecker, northern flicker, veery, Bicknell's thrush, wood thrush, blue-winged warbler, golden-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler , cerulean warbler, worm-eating warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, field sparrow, and eastern box turtle.

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