Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery, outside Centerton, AR, consists of a series of shallow fish ponds surrounded by pasture and suburban development. It is relatively treeless, and except for a low hill to the west, the terrain is flat. It is owned by Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.
Sources for the species checklist are as follows: Arkansas Audubon Society Bird Records File; Arkansas Birds: Their Distribution and Abundance by James and Neal; Birding in the Western Arkansas Ozarks by Neal and Mlodinow; Shorebird Migration at Artificial Ponds in the Prairie-Forest Ecotone of Northwestern Arkansas by Smith et al., Southwestern Naturalist 36(1): 107-113, 1991; Birding Centerton Fish Hatchery in Spring by Mike Mlodinow, Arkansas Audubon Society Newsletter 37(1): 3-5, 1992; and other field notes attached to nomination form. Site regularly supports significant densities of one or more of the bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas: Marsh Wrens and Sedge Wrens are regular in migration, and these two species occasionally winter here. Loggerhead Shrikes are present mainly in the winter. Least Terns and Piping Plover are also present in migration. The site includes an outstanding example of the following special bird habitat: Artificial Impoundment. The constructed fish ponds attract significant numbers of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds in spring and fall migration. Waterfowl also winter at this site. Site supports long-term avian research efforts: waterbird populations at this site have been monitored for decades resulting in one scientific publication. Site provides important, bird-specific educational opportunities: This site is visited regularly by students from the University of Arkansas as well as others. Educational field trips are frequently scheduled here by Audubon societies and other organizations as well as by classes from the Univ. of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Why is this site important for Arkansas birds? 1. Five species of birds named on several lists of special concern use this site in migration: Least Tern, Piping Plover, Marsh Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, and Sedge Wren. 2. Although they are not present in huge numbers, populations of waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, and terns are significant in migration. It is the best spot in Northwestern Arkansas in this regard. Significant numbers of waterfowl also over winter at this site. 3. The hatchery, with its shallow ponds forming temporary mudflats when ponds are intermittently drained, represents a relict habitat that once was common in northwestern Arkansas. Prairies habitat dotted with playa wetlands originally covered the region. Draining the playas and plowing the prairie has left the artificial impoundments of the hatchery as the only significant wetland left to accommodate waterbirds and shorebirds. The present rarity of the habitat it provides raises the hatchery to significant ornithological importance in the area. 4. It is a popular place for birdwatchers, and is by far the most visited site by birders in northwestern Arkansas, and perhaps is one of the most visited sites in the state. 5. Some 39 species of birds that are either rare or unusual in Arkansas have visited the hatchery. These are as follows: Eared Grebe, Tricolored Heron, Glossy Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Ross's Goose, Tundra Swan, Cinnamon Teal, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Swainson's Hawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Virginia Rail, King Rail, Black-bellied Plover, Snowy Plover, Wilson's Plover, Piping Plover, American Avocet, Willet, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ruff, Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Common Tern, Least Tern, Western Kingbird, Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Clay-colored Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Yellow-headed Blackbird. 6. A total of 37 species of shorebirds have been recorded using the hatchery out of the total 41 species recorded in the state, and 23 species of waterfowl at the hatchery compared to 37 species in the state.
Hydrologic changes and urban development have been identified as potential threats. Hatchery managers should be encouraged to provide drained ponds to create mudflats during shorebird migration. Encroaching suburbia will not affect fish raising activities, but the close proximity of residential housing could adversely affect bird movements.