Birds

Canada warbler - W.H. Majoros.

Connecticut River watershed habitats support over 200 bird species throughout the year. Large forest blocks, floodplain forests and expansive tidal marshes support breeding, wintering, and migrating songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and shorebirds.


The Connecticut River watershed serves as one of the major migration corridors within the expansive Atlantic Flyway, and provides nesting habitat for many priority forest birds including wood thrush, Canada warbler and Bicknell’s thrush, grassland and shrubland birds like the grasshopper sparrow and American woodcock, and globally significant populations of nesting saltmarsh sparrow, as well as wintering habitat for thousands of American black ducks. As watershed habitats become lost to development, the protected lands within the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge become critical to wildlife, especially migrating and breeding birds. Development within the watershed is fragmenting large forest blocks, and tends to occur along the Connecticut River mainstem, where important habitats, such as floodplain forests, are lost.

American black duck

The Connecticut River watershed provides breeding, wintering and stop-over habitat for American black ducks. Freshwater, woodland wetlands, especially beaver-created wetlands, shallow lakes with emergent vegetation and bogs in boreal forests provide breeding habitat. The Connecticut River main stem and tidal wetlands of the lower Connecticut River are important stopover locations during migration. The tidal wetlands also support thousands of wintering black ducks. Black ducks have been declining throughout their range. Loss of wetland habitat, increased development, sea level rise and competition with mallards are threats to this species.

Best divisions where you may see this species: Pondicherry Division, Whalebone Cove Division, Mill River Division

American woodcock

If you listen carefully, as the sky darkens to night, you may hear the buzzy “peent” of the male woodcock as he performs an aerial display for the female in the spring. American woodcock can be found throughout the watershed in areas with young forests, wetlands and old fields. Young forests provide nesting and brood rearing habitat, while the moist soils in wetlands provide conditions for earthworms on which woodcock feed. Forest openings (grasslands, old log landings) provide aerial display areas for males, and old fields with clumps of vegetation and shrubs are used at night for roosting. These habitat characteristics need to be within a mile of one another in order to provide for woodcock needs.

Woodcock populations have been declining since the 1960s due to degradation and loss of suitable habitat caused by changes in land uses (lack of young forest, development) and human uses. Efforts are underway by many federal and state wildlife agencies, and other organizations to restore woodcock populations.

Best divisions where you may see this species: Nulhegan Basin Division, Pondicherry Division, Fort River Division, Mt. Tom Unit, Blueberry Swamp Division.

Wood thrush

The flute like song of the wood thrush can often be heard in deciduous and mixed wood forests of the Connecticut River watershed. This species prefers to breed within large tracts of mature forests with moist soils and a shrub understory; but will occur in smaller forest blocks. The shrub understory is one important component of this species’ breeding habitat as they nest in shrubs or small trees. The Breeding Bird Survey has reported a more than 2 percent annual decrease in wood thrush populations since 1966. The reasons are not clear, but possible contributing factors include declining habitat quality (i.e., loss of shrubs in the forest understory), nesting and wintering habitat loss (smaller habitat patches), and acid rain or other pollutants.

Best divisions where you may see this species: Nulhegan Basin, Salmon River Division, Putney Mountain Unit, Pondicherry Division, Fort River Division

Canada warbler

This bright yellow wood warbler is often referred to as the “necklaced warbler” because of the black spots that pattern its breast. This species uses a wide range of deciduous and coniferous forests, but is most abundant in mixed wood forests with moist soils, a dense understory of shrubs and tree saplings, and complex groundcover (i.e., fallen logs). Canada warblers are most common in the northern portion of the Connecticut River watershed, where large tracts of undeveloped land provide suitable habitat. Populations have been declining over the last 40 years due to winter and breeding habitat degradation.

Best divisions where you may see this species: Pondicherry Division, Nulhegan Basin Division