This site is within the Pascagoula River watershed, the only large, unimpeded river system in the lower 48 United States. This state owned property stretches along 50 miles of the Pascagoula River. Because of the unaltered state of the Pascagoula River, the majority of the site is subject to natural seasonal flooding. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks owns and manages these contiguous wildlife management areas primarily for hunting and fishing. This site also provides opportunities for paddling, birdwatching and general nature observation. The Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area was one of the most significant conservation land purchases by a state when it was acquired in the 1970s; Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area was acquired as mitigation for the loss of forested wetlands during the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Ornithological Summary

This IBA has been identified as an important site for the conservation of Swallow-tailed Kites. It provides an important north-south corridor for songbirds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico and is comprised mainly of bottomland hardwood forests with many scattered oxbow lakes.

Conservation Issues

Due to the continual loss of mature bottomland hardwood forests in the region, these public areas are becoming increasingly important for sustaining healthy Swallow-tailed Kite populations. Exotic invasive plants such as Cogon Grass, Japanese Climbing Fern and Japanese Privet could change and disrupt the natural plant communities and impair habitats for nesting and migrating birds. The formation of the Pascagoula River Basin Alliance in 2001 is generating additional interest in the long-term conservation of this IBA and adjoining areas along the river. Various research projects have been conducted to acquire baseline information about bird populations, but continual bird monitoring is critical for assessing the success of management activities. Preliminary radar observations indicate the area supports significant concentrations of Neotropical migrants during spring and fall.

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