The Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area is characterized by large farm and estate parcels, primarily dedicated to open space, agriculture, and equestrian operations. It is the largest contiguous block of protected land in the five-county Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties). Within the 9,098-acre IBA core, 7,877 acres (or 87%) are protected. The total area of proposed IBA core and buffer covers an area of 41,950 acres, of which 25,834 acres (62%) are protected.
Meadows, hayfields, pastures and agricultural fields cover over 28,000 acres of the 41,950-acre IBA. Deciduous and mixed forests are also an important landscape feature in the Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area, covering approximately 10,765 acres. Wetlands and scrub/shrub habitats are also found in the area, along with one serpentine barren area of over sixty acres.
Grassland birds abound on many properties within the IBA. Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark, American Kestrel, and other typical birds of grassland and old field habitats can all be found with regularity during the nesting season. These species are becoming exceedingly rare in Philadelphia?s suburban counties, but healthy populations have remained in the Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area for many years due to the intensive land protection efforts in the area by the Brandywine Conservancy, Natural Lands Trust and others.
The Laurels, King Ranch and Stroud area is a stronghold for grassland-nesting bird species in southeastern Pennsylvania and the Piedmont province. The number of breeding Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows is unmatched in the five-county Philadelphia region. These populations have existed for many years in this area and, thanks to intensive land conservation efforts, are very likely to persist.
Overall, the site is known to support at least 43 species of birds listed in the Pennsylvania Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, many of them in significant numbers. Eleven Audubon WatchList species have been found at the site, including six that breed in the area.
The Unionville Serpentine Barrens (located in the IBA buffer), in addition to harboring many rare plants, is home to a number of scrub/shrub nesting species of note. Blue-winged Warblers, Field Sparrows, Indigo Buntings and White-eyed Vireos all nest within the barrens area, which covers over sixty acres. Scrub/shrub habitat is also found on several other properties in the IBA, supporting populations of Chestnut-sided Warbler and Brown Thrasher, in addition to the species noted above. Willow Flycatcher is a common nesting bird in the area in wet scrubby areas.
Majority of IBA is hayfield/pasture/agricultural.
Most forests are predominantly deciduous, but many have limited conifer stands. Accurate acreage of woodlands within IBA: 10,765 acres.
Barrens consist of serpentine barrens in Newlin Township.