The Hickory and Pickle Creek Hills IBA historically contained oak and oak-pine (short-leaf pine) woodland and forest and sand-stone glades across rough, hilly terrain dissected by streams (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). Currently, the area has more dense second-growth mixed-oak forest and oak-pine forest and cleared pastureland (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). Within the oak-pine forest there are mature short-leaf pine stands, a now rare natural community type.
Twenty-two percent of the Hickory Canyons / Pickle Springs IBA is dedicated conservation land. These lands include the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Hickory Canyons Natural Area (NA) (921 acres, 373 ha) and Pickle Springs NA (262 acres, 106 ha), and the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's (MDNR) Hawn State Park (SP) (4954 acres, 2,006 ha).
The habitats of the Hickory and Pickle Creek Hills IBA are used by many migrant and breeding forest birds, including the Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler. Additionally, Henslow?s Sparrows have been observed in a field in Hawn SP during their breeding season. The area also holds potential for pine and oak-pine woodland restoration. Although extirpated from the area over a half-century ago (Robbins and Easterla 1992), the Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the locally extant?but rare?Bachman?s Sparrow might re-inhabit the area with sufficient restoration of these habitats. Cerulean and Pine Warblers have also been observed at Hawn SP (Palmer and Palmer 2001).
Nigh and Schroeder (2002) note that conservation challenges for the Inner Ozark Border ecological subsection of Missouri (that includes Hickory and Pickle Creek Hills IBA) include restoration of historically open woodland habitats, including pine woodland, through prescribed fire. Such management has recently been done by MDNR at Hawn SP to restore pine woodland habitat, thus it is conceivable that extirpated, pine woodland species of concern, like the Brown-headed Nuthatch, might return in the future. The large tracts of forest that do occur in this IBA are otherwise more fragmented in the rest of Inner Ozark Border subsection, and thus present great regional strongholds for forest-interior breeding birds (Donovan et al. 1995a, b; Robinson et al. 1995).
The Hickory and Pickle Creek Hills IBA is a focal IBA for initial project implementation by AM. Avian conservation targets include: Bachman?s Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, and Red-headed Woodpecker. The project will focus on expanding bird monitoring at Hawn State Park and exploring the possibility of developing an educational display along Whispering Pines Trail in the park. Monitoring will likely first include implementation of a standardized point count-based yearly survey but may expand in the future to include the start-up of a Monitoring Avian and Productivity Survivorship (MAPS) station. Partners may include the East Ozarks Audubon Society, MDNR staff at Hawn State Park, and the L-A-D Foundation.