Important Bird Areas

Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud

Pennsylvania

The Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area is characterized by large farm and estate parcels, primarily dedicated to open space, agriculture, and equestrian operations. It is the largest contiguous block of protected land in the five-county Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties). Within the 9,098-acre IBA core, 7,877 acres (or 87%) are protected. The total area of proposed IBA core and buffer covers an area of 41,950 acres, of which 25,834 acres (62%) are protected.

Meadows, hayfields, pastures and agricultural fields cover over 28,000 acres of the 41,950-acre IBA. Deciduous and mixed forests are also an important landscape feature in the Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area, covering approximately 10,765 acres. Wetlands and scrub/shrub habitats are also found in the area, along with one serpentine barren area of over sixty acres.

Grassland birds abound on many properties within the IBA. Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark, American Kestrel, and other typical birds of grassland and old field habitats can all be found with regularity during the nesting season. These species are becoming exceedingly rare in Philadelphia?s suburban counties, but healthy populations have remained in the Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area for many years due to the intensive land protection efforts in the area by the Brandywine Conservancy, Natural Lands Trust and others.

Woodlands in the Laurels Preserve are home to nesting Louisiana Waterthrushes, large numbers of Wood Thrushes and Scarlet Tanagers, and in some years breeding Worm-eating Warblers and Kentucky Warblers. Woodlands elsewhere in the IBA have not been fully surveyed, but have turned up interesting birds, including several nesting Black-billed Cuckoos and at least one pair of nesting Hooded Warblers.

Embreeville Marsh is the largest wetland in the area; it hosts migratory rails, waterfowl and shorebirds, and holds ten species of sparrows and allies in the winter. Elsewhere in the IBA, nine species of shorebirds have been spotted during Pennsylvania Migratory Counts in vernal pools south of the Laurels Preserve. The Laurels Preserve contains a 10-acre restored wetland, which hosts nesting Willow Flycatchers and Wood Ducks, provides wintering habitat for Swamp Sparrows, and migratory stopover habitat for Soras.

Serpentine barrens, and the flora they typically support, are found in the eastern portion of the IBA buffer, in Newlin Township. Although the serpentine grasslands have decreased in size over the past half-century, they still harbor many endangered and threatened plant species. Scrub/shrub habitat on these properties now provides nesting grounds for Blue-winged Warblers, Indigo Buntings and Field Sparrows.

Overall, the site is known to support at least 43 species of birds listed in the Pennsylvania Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, many of them in significant numbers. Eleven Audubon WatchList species have been found at the site, including six that breed in the area.

The Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area is unique in southeastern Pennsylvania and the Piedmont province for several reasons. Land preservation on the scale of the Laurels and King Ranch is extraordinarily rare in an area so close to a major city. The size of the area and the diversity of habitats creates ideal nesting, wintering and migratory stopover habitat for a large number of bird species. Since much of the land is open (consisting of meadows, hayfields, and croplands), area-sensitive grassland-nesting bird species are found here in larger numbers than anywhere else in the five-county Philadelphia region.

Ornithological Summary

The Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area is a stronghold for grassland-nesting bird species in southeastern Pennsylvania and the Piedmont province. The number of breeding Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows is unmatched in the five-county Philadelphia region. These populations have existed for many years in this area and, thanks to intensive land conservation efforts, are very likely to persist.

Overall, the site is known to support at least 43 species of birds listed in the Pennsylvania Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, many of them in significant numbers. Eleven Audubon WatchList species have been found at the site, including six that breed in the area.

The Unionville Serpentine Barrens (located in the IBA buffer), in addition to harboring many rare plants, is home to a number of scrub/shrub nesting species of note. Blue-winged Warblers, Field Sparrows, Indigo Buntings and White-eyed Vireos all nest within the barrens area, which covers over sixty acres. Scrub/shrub habitat is also found on several other properties in the IBA, supporting populations of Chestnut-sided Warbler and Brown Thrasher, in addition to the species noted above. Willow Flycatcher is a common nesting bird in the area in wet scrubby areas.

Habitat

Majority of IBA is hayfield/pasture/agricultural.
Most forests are predominantly deciduous, but many have limited conifer stands. Accurate acreage of woodlands within IBA: 10,765 acres.
Barrens consist of serpentine barrens in Newlin Township.