Important Bird Areas

Hershey Special Habitat

Pennsylvania

Near Hershey, this area is a unique combination of prime owl roosting habitat (Mature Eastern White Pine groves) combined with large areas of open grasslands. The grasslands are a combination of cultivated and fallow fields interspersed with wet springs and drainage ageas, three small man-made ponds, and woodland covering approximately 30% of the total area. The woods are both deciduous and mixed, with White Pine covering the most abundant coniferous species. The amount of land in cultivation varies from year to year.

{link:For fact sheet, click here|http://pa.audubon.org/Sites/Site45.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

Traditionally known as Owl Hill because of the population of Great Horned Owls, this area was recently (1991) discovered to be Long-eared Owl and occasionally Short-eared Owl roosting habitat. Eastern White Pine in the area serve as roosts for the Long-eared Owl, and the adjacent fields sustain high populations of Meadow Vole, which makes up approximately 90-95% of their diet, according to pellet analysis. This site is an example of owl roosting habitat.

Conservation Issues

The land is used for agriculture with the amount of land in cultivation varying from year to year. A unique opportunity exists to develop a land management and conservation plan cooperatively with the students in the Agriculture and Environmental Program at the Milton Hershey School. Protecting the area would provide a buffer that would circumscribe the owl roost and secure prime hunting territory for these birds. Development of a currrently proposed bike path could directly threaten this site.

The area is managed by Hershey Trust Corporation for the Milton Hershey School. An effort has been made to optimize Barn Owl nesting and roosting opportunities. A nesting box and platform were erected in a barn near the north border. Plans are in progress for a Swatara Creek Greenway, and the Hershey Trust Corporation has completed a study for the scetion of the creek that flows through Hershey property.