Important Bird Areas

Niagara River Corridor

New York

This site includes the portion of the Niagara River that flows north and
northwest for approximately 32 miles from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario,
which varies from 110 to 2,200 yards wide. The Upper River flows
around Grand Island in eastern and western branches before flowing
over Niagara Falls (158-167 feet high) into the Niagara gorge. The
gorge is up to 200 feet deep and extends downstream about six miles to
the village of Lewiston. The river then flows for another seven miles,
between banks ranging from 20-70 feet in height, until it reaches Lake
Ontario. There are rapids before and after the falls and a large whirlpool
in the lower river. Water depth varies from less than 30 feet in the Upper
River, to shallow rapids in the Lower River, to 200 feet in the gorge. The
shoreline in some areas of the upper river on the U.S. side is industrially
developed and very little natural shoreline remains. In the lower river,
the shoreline between the falls and Lewiston is largely undeveloped shrub lands and forests that are protected as state parks. Downstream
of Lewiston the shoreline is largely developed, but shrub and forest
habitats are still common. According to the NY GAP land cover data,
approximately 16% of the site is shrub habitat, which includes old field/
pastures, shrub swamps, successional hardwoods, and successional shrub
lands. Portions of the site are administered by NYS OPRHP and NYS
DEC, and on Canadian side, by the Niagara Parks Commission, but the
bulk of the land is municipal, corporate, or privately owned.

Ornithological Summary

The Niagara River annually supports one of the world?s most spectacular
concentrations of gulls, with 19 species recorded and one-day counts
of over 100,000 individuals. The site is particularly noteworthy as a
migratory stopover and wintering site for Bonaparte?s Gulls, with
one-day counts ranging from 10,000-50,000 individuals (2-10% of
the world population). One-day Ring-billed Gull counts vary from
10,000-20,000, and one-day Herring Gull counts vary from 10,000-
50,000. The river also hosts a remarkable diversity and abundance of
waterfowl. Winter NYS DEC aerial surveys show a 22-year average of
2,808 Canvasbacks (31.5% of state wintering population), 2,369 scaup
(6% of state wintering population), 2,015 Common Goldeneyes (29%
of state wintering population), and 7,527 Common Mergansers (31% of
state wintering population). Annual peak numbers range from 2,000-
15,000 Canvasbacks, 2,500-15,000 Greater Scaup, 2,300-3,000 Common
Goldeneyes, and 2,500-12,000 Common Mergansers. The river also
supports breeding colonies of Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue
Herons, Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons (95-142 pairs),
Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Common Terns. The habitats
along the river?s edge support an exceptional diversity of migratory
songbirds during spring and fall migrations. The few remaining
marshes, including one at Buckhorn Island State Park, have supported
breeding Least Bitterns, Northern Harriers, and Sedge Wrens. Other species at-risk supported at the site include the American Black Duck
(breeds), Common Loon (winter), Pied-billed Grebe (confirmed
breeder), Cooper?s Hawk (confirmed breeder), American Woodcock
(probable breeder), Common Nighthawk (probable breeder), Redheaded
Woodpecker, Willow Flycatcher (confirmed breeder), Horned
Lark (confirmed breeder), Wood Thrush (confirmed breeder), Bluewinged
Warbler (probable breeder), and Cerulean Warbler.
Mixed species of waterfowl 22,431 ind. in 2000,38,537 in 2001,
11,446 in 2002, 18,938 in 2003, 17,205 in 2004 (NYSOA winter
waterfowl counts). Great Blue Heron,Great Egret,Blackcrowned
Night-Heron 233 ind. in 2002, 166 in 2003,148 in 2004;NYS DEC surveys,Mark Kandel.
Site has supported 31% of state wintering population of
Canvasbacks.

Conservation Issues

This site is listed in the 2002 State Open Space Conservation Plan as
a priority site under the project name Great Lakes & Niagara River
Access, Shore Lands, and Vistas. Portions of this site (Buckhorn Island)
are designated as a state Bird Conservation Area. Industrial water
pollution on the U.S. side has historically been a major problem along
the Niagara River, but cleanup efforts have reduced the levels of most
known toxic chemicals. The health of the aquatic ecosystems of the
river must continue to be monitored because of the massive numbers
of wetland species that rely on those ecosystems. Much of the land
along the river has been developed for industrial purposes (especially
on the U.S. side of the upper river near Buffalo and Niagara), power
generation, and commercial and residential uses. Continued loss
of forest and shrub habitats along the river will negatively impact
migratory songbirds. The protection of remaining wetland, forest, and
shrub habitats along the shoreline should be a priority. Boating activities
are a known threat to nesting terns and herons in the upper portions
of the river, and there is considerable interest in developing marinas
and boat launch facilities along the remaining available shoreline. A
comprehensive bird conservation plan for the Niagara River Corridor
was developed with input from numerous partners and published in
2002 by the Canadian Nature Federation; efforts should be made to
implement the plan?s recommendations. Efforts to incorporate bird
conservation projects into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(FERC) licensing process are encouraged. During the first round of
IBA site identifications, this site was recognized under the research
criterion because a long-term monitoring project is based there.

×