Important Bird Areas

Pine City Natural Area

Arkansas

Pine City Natural Area (Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission) is 1,043 acres split into three separate tracts. The primary purpose of the land is for managing and protecting a small population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Habitat types include mixed pine-hardwood, second-growth forest, and loblolly pine. These stands are interspersed with both actively-used and fallow farm fields, some second-growth forest patches, and lands managed for deer and turkey hunting.

Ornithological Summary

Site regularly supports significant densities of one or more of the bird species considered by Audubon as vulnerable in Arkansas: PCNA supports one confirmed breeding group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, consisting of a breeding male and female and one related helper male. The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at PCNA represent the only remaining remnant of the Arkansas Mississippi Alluvial Plain (aka, Arkansas Delta) population. These birds successfully reared two female juveniles in 2002; one of the juveniles remains with the group at PCNA, and the other has been translocated to the Ouachita National Forest. On 27 March 2003, one male and one female bird from the Ouachita National Forest were released into the cavity cluster in the western-most 40-acre woodlot with the hopes that they will form a second breeding group. This population has been identified as an "important support area" in the most recently revised version of the species' Recovery Plan (USFWS 2000). PCNA also supports small (<7 pair) breeding populations of Red-headed Woodpeckers, Wood Thrush, and Prothonotary Warblers. American Woodock, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Rusty Blackbird, and Sharp-shinned Hawks also use the area during winter and migration. Northern Bobwhite have also been detected at PCNA. PCNA contains the last remaining tracts of lowland loblolly pine woodlands in the Arkansas Delta. At this time, approximately 200 acres of forest at PCNA are stands of mature pine. The remaining land, which consists of mixed lowland pine-hardwood forest, will be managed by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to promote pine regeneration and the park-like mature pine forest that will support Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and other species associated with pine-grassland systems, including Northern Bobwhite and potentially, Bachman's Sparrow. Red-cockaded Woodpecker management on this site includes long-term monitoring of the remnant population as well as translocations of birds between PCNA and the Ouachita National Forest. Currently, monitoring work involves ANHC staff, students from Arkansas State University (ASU), and biologists from the U.S. Forest Service. Over time, the ANHC hopes to establish at least two more RCW breeding families in this area. Students of ASU have had, and will continue to have, the opportunity to assist in monitoring the Red-cockaded Woodpecker population at this site. Also, Classes from the Univ. of Arkansas at Little Rock visit PCNA as part of the Wildlife Management Techniques course. In the future, students may also conduct surveys at this site to provide documentation of breeding bird populations. As previously stated, PCNA supports the last remaining group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Arkansas' Mississippi Alluvial Valley. These birds rely upon the remnant mature pine woodlands that exist nowhere else within 100 miles of this site. Long-term management of PCNA will focus on the maintenance of the woodpeckers presently residing there, as well as the establishment of two new breeding groups. The woodlands at PCNA also support many other woodpecker species, including Red-headed, Red-bellied, Pileated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers. Hairy Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are also occasionally observed there, making PCNA one of the few sites where eight of Arkansas' nine woodpecker species can be observed. Several species of concern in Arkansas are also found here, including the Northern Bobwhite, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wood Thrush, Rusty Blackbird, and Prothonotary Warbler. As management further establishes the mature pine-grassland structure of this habitat, Bachman's Sparrow may also begin recolonizing this site.

Conservation Issues

Pine City Natural Area is a remnant stand of native, mature pine forest in east-central Arkansas. Currently, the protected area is relatively small and fragmented. However, ANHC is attempting to purchase more land in the area to reduce the negative effects of fragmentation. The acquisition of more pine forest, as well as agricultural land that can be restored to pine woodlands, will increase the size of suitable habitat and provide corridors for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and other birds. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are sensitive to human presence during the breeding season, as well as when returning to the roost hole 30 min before sunset year round. Visitors are asked to keep their distance from roost and nest holes during these critical times.

Ownership

Owned by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.

Habitat

Pine City Natural Area is virtually level, though local relief is sufficient to result in significant differences in vegetation and community types. The site is a mosaic of loblolly pine-post oak flatwoods, willow oak flatwoods, mesic floodplain forest, saline barrens, overcup oak forest and flooded woodland, beaver ponds, and open slough.
The area also contains the ?Lost pines of Arkansas.? These loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) forests and woodlands are lost in the sense that they are an isolated population within the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. This isolation has resulted in this small population of loblolly pines being slightly genetically distinct from loblolly pines found elsewhere throughout its range. The natural area supports fairly extensive stands of loblolly pine forest and represents the best and most extensive of the last remaining high quality natural stands of that type in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Pine City Natural Area is within a region of about 500 square miles (1,295 km2), primarily in Monroe County, that was the only substantial area of the Delta where loblolly pine forests were characteristic at the time of settlement. Loblolly is the only pine species that occurs in the area.

Land Use

PCNA is managed exclusively for the conservation of the mature upland pine woodlands and the resident Red-cockaded Woodpecker breeding groups.