Located approximately seven miles southeast of Providence, this site spans the border of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It includes the fringing tidal saltmarshes along the Palmer River in the municipalities of Warren and Barrington, Rhode Island, and Swansea, MA.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/maps/RI/RI3606m_PalmerRiver.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

During sampling conducted between June 1 and July 14 of 2007 by Walter Berry (USEPA - Rhode Island) 32 individual Sharp-tailed Sparrows were detected in the marsh on the west side of the river in the Town of Barrington, and 16 individuals were noted in the marshes on the east side of the river in the Town of Warren. During surveys conducted in 2008, 62 Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed sparrows were detected on the west side and 25 were detected on the east for a total of 87 individuals detected within the IBA. These marshes also provide foraging habitat to a variety of long legged waders, rails, and other waterbirds.

Conservation Issues

This site is a river Estuary that lies within a mixed use watershed. All developed uses (Agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial, etc.) can contribute nutrients and toxic substances to the waterways. Palmer River often suffers from late summer hypoxia, elevated coliform bacteria counts, and other water quality impacts. Residential development is a source of feral cats which can prey on ground nesting birds, non-native plants, and nutrient pollution from stormwater runoff, the latter often encouraging the proliferation of invasive plants such as the non-native haplotypes of Phragmites australis. Since Phragmites often invades from fringing freshwater wetlands into the high marsh zones, it may have a heavy impact on suitable nesting habitat of the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.


Approximately 47.6% of the IBA consists of open water. Land ownership, based on data obtained from the 2006 Rhode Island Geographic Information System (RIGIS) data and 2009 Massachusetts Geographic Information System (MassGIS data) provided the following detail for land ownership within the IBA: The Audubon Society of RI owns a parcel that comprises approximately 1.5% of the IBA. Three land trusts combine to form 8.6% of the IBA (Barrington Land Conservation Trust at 5.4%, Swansea Land Trust at 2.2%, and the Warren Land Conservation Trust at 1.0%. Approximately o.3 % of the IBA is protected via a private-conservation easement. The Town of Rehoboth, MA owns approximately 0.3% of the land within the IBA; the Town of Warren 5.4%, and the Town of Barrington 0.02%. The Swansea Golf Club owns 7.4% of the land within the IBA. Other Private ownership portions combine for approx. 28.9% of the land within the IBA.


Dominant habitats within this IBA include salt marshes, tidal flats, emergent marsh, shrub thickets and forested swamp. The salt marshes along the Palmer River are un-ditched, which is considered an attribute of a high quality salt marsh system. The marshes within the IBA are considered brackish. Unfortunately, large stands of phragmites occur along significant reaches of the marsh's landward edge, and the Palmer RIver itself suffers from degraded water quality.

Land Use

based on 2003 RIGIS data and 1999 MassGIS data)
Beaches 0.1%
Brushland (shrub and brush areas, reforestation) 0.4%
Commercial 0.1%
Cropland (tillable) 1.6%
Developed Recreation (all recreation) 0.7%
All Forested Areas 9.1%
Industrial 0.2%
Pasture 0.1%
Powerlines 0.2%
Residential 0.8%
Water 49.6%
Water and Sewage Treatment 0.1%
Wetland 37.0%

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