Wildlife & Habitat

Blue Heron Oconee 512W
  • Wood duck

    pair of wood ducks

    Resident wood ducks occur throughout the bottomland hardwood habitats in Bond Swamp NWR. Migrants add to this number during fall and winter. The greater Bond Swamp NWR area provides wintering habitat for several thousand ducks. The area contains outstanding wood duck habitat, and unknown numbers of wood ducks remain or return to the refuge to breed. The refuge is in the Atlantic Flyway and holds a large number of ducks relative to middle Georgia. Wood ducks are the most common species and the refuge provides ideal nesting habitat for the resident birds. Mallards, gadwall, American wigeon, teal, and ring-necked ducks are common species found in the late fall and winter months. Management practices that enhance the production of a variety of mast species (including willow and water oaks) will benefit wood ducks and mallards. A lack of suitable nest cavities is one of the main limiting factors on wood duck populations. Over-mature and decadent trees usually contain the largest number of suitable cavities. Management that increases the number of suitable cavity trees, preferably within 100 yards of water, will improve habitat conditions for wood ducks on the refuge.

  • Swainson’s warbler

    Swainsons warbler

    Bond Swamp provides ideal nesting habitat for the Swainson’s warbler, listed as a species of concern by Partners-in-Flight. The Swainson's Warbler is commonly found in thickets of giant cane, and some researchers have suggested that the plant is essential for the species to nest. Recent work shows, however, that the warbler nests in lowland areas where cane is rare or absent. More important than the exact type of understory plants present is the presence of a thick understory with vine "tents" and tangles, and small shaded glades carpeted with leaf litter.

  • Black bear

    Black Bears

    Populations of black bears occur in the north Georgia mountains and upper piedmont, in central Georgia below Macon along the Ocmulgee River, and in southeast Georgia in the vicinity of the Okefenokee Swamp. In recent years, black bear populations have increased in number and in the extent of the area in which they occur, particularly the north and central Georgia populations. An ongoing study on the Ocmulgee Wildlife Management Area, just south of Bond Swamp NWR, provides a preliminary estimate of 1.67 bears per-square-mile for that area. Researchers estimate the Bond Swamp NWR population at 1 bear per square-mile. Though bears range widely in search of food, as development pressures increase around Macon and Warner Robins, Bond Swamp NWR will become increasingly important in sustaining the middle Georgia population. Habitat management strategies that favor a mature bottomland hardwood system with interspersed gaps will provide the variety of hard and soft mast utilized by bears. In the mature forest, large diameter trees with cavities are important as dens and cover, as are thickly vegetated areas resulting from large tree falls. Mature bottomland hardwoods and mixed pine-hardwood uplands also are an important mast resource for bears.

  • Butterflies

    Hackberry Emperor butterfly 150W

    Butterflies: Possible Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, Lace-winged Roadside Shipper, and Goatweed
    Approximately half of the expected butterfly species for the region have been documented on Bond Swamp NWR. Many of the 63 species of butterflies that have been identified are species of concern in Georgia (Johnson 2006). It is likely that many of the others occur here, but perhaps infrequently or in limited numbers. Many species require specific host plants to complete their life cycles, and a number of such host plants require forest openings, early successional patches, and other sunlit areas to thrive. Several butterfly species tied to cane and sedges have been found, but in general, the relatively uniform forested habitats of Bond Swamp NWR are not likely to sustain thriving populations of butterfly species dependent on successional plant communities. Management of utility rights-of-way may provide some opportunities. Some of the more common species tied to mature bottomlands and found on the refuge include the American snout (Libytheana carinenta), hackberry emperor (Asterocampa celtis), and tawny emperor (A. clyton). 

    File uploads: Butterfly count results and butterfly species list. 

  • Upland forests

    Upland Forest 150W

    Upland systems at Bond Swamp NWR can broadly be classified as oak-hickory-pine. Chief overstory species include: hickories; sweetgum; white oak (Q. alba); persimmon (Diospyros virginiana); tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera); and loblolly, shortleaf, and longleaf pines (Pinus taeda, P. echinata, and P. palustris). Mixed forest types on the refuge are typically hardwood dominated. The fire tolerant/dependent pines now comprise only a minor component of upland stands, presumably due to the exclusion and suppression of fire, and resultant hardwood encroachment. Hardwoods can shade and suppress existing pine trees, and preclude the establishment of future pine cohorts through shading and competition for space and nutrients. Advance regeneration of softwood species appears to be lacking in much of the uplands at Bond Swamp NWR. A mixture of understory species includes dogwood, red bud (Cercis canadensis), and greenbriar.

  • Bottomland hardwood forest and swamp

    BottomLandHardwood150W

    In bottomland hardwood and swamp forest types, principle overstory species on the refuge include: water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica); black gum (Nyssa sylvatica); red maple (Acer rubrum); sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua); elm (Ulmus spp.); ash (Fraxinus spp.); hickory (Carya spp.); and water, willow, overcup and swamp chestnut oaks (Quercus nigra, Q. phellos, Q. lyrata, and Q. michauxii).

    Swamp forests are essentially the lowest areas of bottomland systems, and are distinguished as being subject to extended or very regular periods of inundation. As bottomland forests grade into swamps, tree species diversity decreases and forests tend towards dominance by water tupelo and, at least historically, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). Beaver ponds and oxbow-type lakes can lead to significant portions of refuge floodplains remaining inundated throughout the year, allowing establishment of submerged and emergent aquatic plant communities.

    Common mid- and under-story species in bottomlands on Bond Swamp NWR include: poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), rattan vine (Berchemia scandens), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), boxelder (Acer negundo), privet (Ligustrum spp.), and others. Giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is present sporadically in small patches.

    Though other factors are at play, the development and complexity of understory layers is principally influenced by the combined effects of light penetration and hydrologic forces that affect growth, survival, and recruitment of shrubs, vines, and small trees. 


    Significant patches of bottomland forest habitat on the refuge are closed canopied and lack understory complexity, particularly in interior stands away from roads, old logging operations, and other disturbed areas. Nonetheless, areas do exist where mid- and under-story strata are quite well developed, providing important structure and foraging/nesting substrates for many wildlife species.

  • Rock Outcrops

    Out crop 150W

    Other minor habitats on the refuge include rock outcrops, beaver ponds, and ravines that are important in contributing plant and wildlife diversity to the overall refuge landscape. Rock outcroppings are spectacular Piedmont ecosystems. They occur in a zone almost entirely across the Piedmont. The outcroppings located on Brown’s and Bull’s mountains represent the southernmost such communities in the state. Outcroppings present opportunities to observe the earliest plant successional stages, including lichens and mosses. Federally endangered fringed campion (Silene polypetala) and relict trillium (Trillium reliquum) could occur on the refuge given the presence of known populations nearby. State threatened Nestronia (Nestronia umbellula) was found on an upland site adjacent to rock outcroppings during the Biological Review (USFWS 2007). The rare lobed spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum) may possibly be found on these limestone outcroppings. Much of the floodplain remains inundated throughout the year due to beaver swamps and oxbow-type lakes. Many species of moist-soil and aquatic plants establish in these areas, including cattail, sedges,rushes, arrowhead, pond weed, duck weed, and water shield. Button bush is a common understory species along with river cane and alder. Principle tree species include willows, ash, and maples.