Wildlife & Habitat

Wildlife and Habitat-Roseate Spoonbills-512x219

Hillside National Wildlife Refuge has a dynamic diversity of habitats that supports hundreds of wildlife species. Originally purchased by the Corps of Engineers to capture sediment from the Yazoo Basin Headwater area, Hillside National Wildlife Refuge continues to evolve. Hillside NWR's dominant habitats are hardwood forest bottomlands with oaks and cottonwood trees in the higher elevations, and willow, bald cypress and tupelo sloughs or "brakes" in lower elevations.  Below you can find information on some of the most common residents of the Refuge and their associated habitats.

  • Migratory Birds

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    More than 225 species of migratory birds use the Theodore Roosevelt Complex, which includes Hillside NWR, with 77 species breeding on Complex lands. Ten species with Partners-in-Flight “concern scores” of 20 or more are common or abundant, including prothonotary warbler, painted bunting, red-headed woodpecker, yellow-billed cuckoo, wood thrush, white-eyed vireo, yellow-breasted chat, Carolina chickadee, loggerhead shrike, and dickcissel. Mallards are the most abundant wintering waterfowl species, followed variously by gadwall, greenwing teal, pintails, and shovelers. Snow geese occupy Morgan Brake NWR and Yazoo NWR in large numbers during winter, with flocks sometimes exceeding 100,000 birds. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers are common nesters in the spring and summer, depending on the size of the nest box program on each refuge.

    Wading bird rookeries exist on Yazoo, Hillside, and Morgan Brake NWRs. Nesting species include the great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, little blue heron, cattle egret, black-crowned night heron, anhinga, tricolored heron, and, more recently, the double-crested cormorant. White ibis have occupied rookeries on Morgan Brake NWR in the past, but currently are the dominant species using a large rookery adjacent to Panther Swamp NWR.

    About 20 species of shorebirds use the Complex, especially Yazoo and Morgan Brake NWRs, where moist-soil habitat is managed intensively. Some of the most numerous species are least sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers, lesser yellowlegs, and stilt sandpipers.

  • Invasive Species

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    Hillside NWR has an active and ongoing invasive species control program.  The three most troublesome species for the Refuge are feral hogs, nutria, and kudzu.  For more information about how the FWS deals with invasive species, please visit http://www.fws.gov/invasives.

  • Game Species

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    Hunting is an extremely popular and important activity on Hillside NWR.  Hunting opportunities are available for white-tailed deer, turkey, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and waterfowl.  Fishing and frogging is also allowed at certain times of the year.  For more information about hunting and fishing on Hillside NWR, please visit our Regulations Brochure.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forests

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    Prior to European settlement, the Delta cover type was primarily bottomland hardwood forest. Around 1820, settlers began clearing the forest. The dominant forest type was oak-gum-cypress, with canebrakes covering the understory of broad flats on slightly higher ground. Canebrakes were very extensive on natural levees, forming almost pure stands. Most of the surviving forests now occupy low-lying ground that is too wet for agriculture, and are dominated by wet-site species. These forested wetlands have a fluctuating water level and are semi-dry part of the year.

  • Open Water Wetlands

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    Open water wetlands consist of cypress swamps and tupelo-gum brakes. Cypress swamps are found in poorly drained, saturated soils with high levels of organic matter. At Hillside NWR, water levels are influenced by rainfall and standing water year-round is typical. Plant diversity in cypress swamps is high due to flooding, topography, and recruitment from the surrounding habitat.

    The bald cypress is a deciduous conifer often interspersed with hardwoods such as tupelo-gum. The bald cypress grows to 50–100' is identified by swelling at the bottom of the trunk, or buttressing, an adaptation designed to stabilize the tree’s base in saturated soils.

  • Loess Bluffs

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    The loess bluffs adjacent to Hillside and Morgan Brake NWRs support a completely different floral assemblage. Some trees, such as northern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, Florida maple, yellowwood, and cucumber tree are considered unusual in the Delta. American beech, tulip poplar, white oak, red buckeye, and hornbeam, among other species, occupy the lower and middle loess slopes, with flowering dogwood, southern red oak, and black gum at the top of the bluff. Refuge staff identified 44 species of woody plants on a cursory survey of a very small area on the bluff. Herbaceous species included abundant jack-in-the pulpit, Christmas fern, and trillium.