Important Bird Areas

Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area

Arkansas

Freddie Black Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area (owned by Arkansas Game & Fish Commission) is not a true island, but is bounded to the west by the Mississippi River levee and connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Choctaw Bar Island, is a true island in the Mississippi River that makes up approximately 2,000 acres of the total 8,300-ac WMA The habitat is mostly bottomland hardwood forest, but also includes significant components of lowland pine-hardwood forest, riverine forest, and sandbars. The land was purchased in late 2001 from a private timber company, so the area has had a history of timber harvest and management. However, approximately 70% of the area is mature bottomland hardwood or pine-hardwood mixed forest. Deer have been the primary management focus of refuge staff, but staff also wish to promote the area to birders.

Ornithological Summary

Regularly supports significant densities of one or more of the bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas (explained below): Choctaw Island provides a stopover for migrating birds along the Mississippi flyway, as well as hosts several breeding species of concern, including Least Terns, Prothonotary Warblers, Cerulean Warblers, and Painted Buntings. Least Terns have been documented to nest on or near Choctaw Bar Island in 1981, 1992-1994, and 1997-2000. Least Terns have been documented to nest on or near Choctaw Bend in 1988, 1992, 1997, 1999, and 2000. In 2000, 48 adult terns were observed on Choctaw Bar Island, nesting was confirmed, and eggs or chicks were confirmed. In 2000, 79 adult terns were observed on Choctaw Bend, nesting was confirmed, and eggs or chicks were confirmed. Intensive surveys of the area are required to determine the presence and abundance of all avian species. In 2003, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission observed 23 Wood Thrush, 3 Baltimore Orioles, 9 Acadian Flycatchers, 5 Prothonotary Warblers, 1 Hooded Warbler, 1 Louisianna Waterthrush, 5 Orchard Orioles, 5 Summer Tanagers, 3 Eastern Towhees, and 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel also found a Loggerhead Shrike nest with several nestlings, 5 Mississippi Kites and 5 Red-headed Woodpeckers. The site regularly supports 1000 shorebirds or more. The riverine, dune habitat on the eastern edge of Choctaw Island, and surrounding Choctaw Bar Island, appear ideal for migrating shorebirds. Surveys are needed to determine if significant densities of shorebirds use this area. Site includes one or more outstanding examples of the following special bird habitats: glades, bottomland hardwood forest, lowland pine-hardwood forest, sandbars, riverfront forest (Sycamore, River Birch, etc...). Choctaw Island WMA contains mostly bottomland hardwood forest, but also includes significant components of lowland pine-hardwood forest, riverine forest, glades, and sandbars. The site supports long-term avian research efforts. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has recently (May 2003) established a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) station on Choctaw Island. Through this project, breeding birds will be sampled and monitored on a long-term basis (>10 years). Choctaw Island WMA also has the potential to be used by university students throughout Arkansas for ornithological research. This site is important for Arkansas birds because Choctaw Island WMA provides unique habitat that is located on an important migration route. Also, several avian species of concern are known to use this area for breeding. At this time, only a limited amount of sampling of the avian community has been conducted. The limited data available suggest that Choctaw Island may support extremely significant resources for birds.

Conservation Issues

Under direction of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Choctaw Island WMA is managed for wildlife and is not under serious or potential threat at this time. A small percentage (~8%) of the area consists of hardwood plantations that were established for timber harvest. These areas may require management to reestablish native flora and fauna. Feral hogs destroy native vegetation.

Ownership

Owned by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Habitat

The Lowland Hardwood Forest is a mix of Pine and Hardwoods.

Land Use

Choctaw Island WMA was recently opened to the public and is popular for hunting, and especially, fishing. This area also has the potential to be used of biological research, education, and tourism. As previously mentioned, long-term surveys of this area are required to determine the status of avian populations, which may provide an opportunity for both researchers and students as well as management staff.

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