The refuge is perhaps the best remaining example in Mississippi of a well-managed wet pine savanna, of which less than one percent remains throughout the southeastern United States. It is an important site for conducting long-term research and monitoring of bird and plant responses to prescribed fire. This site is regularly visited by natural resource professionals studying ecological restoration and other subjects relating to fire ecology. Audubon members and other local birders have monitored birds in a portion of the refuge on a weekly basis for the last decade. This is perhaps the most intensive citizen science effort at an IBA in Mississippi.

Ornithological Summary

The site is the only place in the world for the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane, one of the rarest and smallest bird populations in the world. The 120 Mississippi Sandhill Cranes existing on the refuge are non-migratory; a small number of migratory Greater Sandhill Cranes visit the refuge during the winter. This site also winters about twenty percent of the world?s population of Henslow?s Sparrows.

Conservation Issues

Suburban development is encroaching on the boundaries of the refuge, making it more difficult to conduct regular prescribed burning. Continued burning, particularly during the growing season, is critical to maintaining the ecological integrity of the refuge. Invasive, exotic plants, especially Cogon Grass, are becoming established in disturbed areas of the refuge and managers must be vigilant to keep these species under control. Predation by Coyotes, raccoons and other species is a major threat to crane chicks and re-introduced juveniles. The crane population also has a high turnover rate and the cause is unknown. This IBA could benefit from a stronger outreach effort and one not limited to cranes but emphasizing the values of the entire ecosystem for birds, other wildlife and human benefits such as water quality protection.

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