Important Bird Areas

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge

Arkansas

Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge lies along the Arkansas River and is bounded by an old oxbow that was created when the Army Corps of Engineers cut a channel through a bend in the river to promote navigation and flood control. The refuge provides recreational opportunities for hunters and birders alike. The site is mostly lowland hardwood forest and oxbow lake. The remainder is agricultural for wildlife, shrub-scrub, riverine forest and canebrake.

Ornithological Summary

This site regularly supports significant densities of one or more bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas (explained below). The refuge provides wintering raptor habitat for Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned & Cooper's Hawks, among others; Ospreys occur during migration; Mississippi Kites have occurred during migration and may have attempted nesting in 2003. Winter duck species include Hooded Merganser. A flock of 13 Trumpeter Swans were introduced in January 2008 to seed a new state wintering population. The grasslands provide habitat for wintering Sedge & Marsh Wrens and various grassland sparrow; Northern Bobwhite occur year-round; American Woodcock occur year-round; the bottomland hardwood forest attract Rusty Blackbirds during the winter; gulls sometimes numbering in the thousands, from the nearby Lake Dardanelle IBA, feed in recently plowed or cut crop fields and have been observed from 1988-2003; owls are present year-round, with as many as 6 species present during winter including Short-eared Owls; Acadian Flycatchers are present in migration and the breeding season; excellent forest and scrub habitat exists for migrating passerines including Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Black Throated Green, American Redstart, Worm-eating and Swainson's Warblers and these have been observed from 1990-2003; Prairie, Cerulean, Prothonotary, and Hooded Warblers breed here; Loggerhead Shrikes can be found occasionally throughout the year; breeding habitat for Painted Buntings and bottomland hardwood forests that host a heavier than normal population of Kentucky Warblers and woodpeckers, including Red-headed; Baltimore Orioles breed on the refuge. The site regularly supports 10,000 waterfowl (excluding snow geese) or more. Waterfowl numbers vary depending on water levels, but the refuge routinely hosts 15+ species during the winter. Numbers vary by species with Mallard being the most common. The 2000 Christmas bird count had 19,588 in Mallards alone. Christmas bird count & waterfowl survey data show counts >10,000 in non Snow Geese species for 1994,97,98,99, and 2000. With numbers close to 10,000 in 1989 and 1995. 3,000 raptors or more pass site per seasonal migration, or 100/day; or 3 raptors on winter territory/sq. mile. We have a wintering population of several raptor including Harriers, Red-tailed, Red-Shouldered, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, Kestrels, Merlins, Peregrines, Golden and Bald Eagles and up to 6 species of Owls. At times every perch tree within the agricultural portion of the refuge will contain 1-2 birds. The grasslands provide excellent Short-eared Owl habitat, and the dense Cedar glades provide excellent roost cover for hawks and owls. CBC data suggests that >3 per square mile have been present from at least 1989 to 2003. Wintering roost site supports 50 eagles or more. Habitat supporting roost is natural, not human-created: we have had roosts >50 in the past, particularly 1999,2000 and 2003. Numbers have been <50 birds other years, though >10 are present every year. The refuge includes one or more outstanding examples of the following special bird habitats: bottomland hardwood forest, shrub-scrub habitat (planted hardwoods and dense tangles of various shrub/scrub species), and natural lake (oxbow, meander scar lake). The area is situated on a wildlife refuge with wildlife drive and observations areas, with extensive use by area residents. Local grade school visit the refuge on field trips and AR Tech University uses the refuge for various classes, especially ornithology.

Conservation Issues

Cowbird parasitism is a known threat in Holla Bend. Minor threats include development, predators, disturbance to birds and habitat, hydrologic changes and off road vehicle use. Potential threats include invasive or non-native plants and introduced animals.

Land Use

The primary land use is nature and wildlife conservation with hunting/fishing and wildlife observation also occurring.