This urban IBA, twice the size of Central Park in New York City, is the only known concentration point in Mississippi for migrating raptors during the fall. The varied topography of the Loess Hills, which comprise nearly all the acreage of this IBA, provide a beautiful mosaic of steep, heavily-vegetated slopes, and great views across cleared vistas and the Yaxoo and Mississippi Rivers

Ornithological Summary

A high point at the park?s western edge, known as Fort Hill, is the site of annual observations of southbound Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and other raptors that appear to converge on the park after following the Loess Hills bluffs that run along the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta region. The park also provides important upland forested habitat for migrating and nesting landbirds. The varied topography of the Loess Hills, with their steep, heavily-vegetated slopes, provides suitable nesting habitat for significant numbers of rare and elusive species such as Swainson?s and Worm-eating Warblers. The park also supports a significant abundance and diversity of migrant landbirds, especially during the spring. Studies are under way by the U.S. Geological Survey and Audubon Mississippi to document landbird migration and nesting in the park.

Conservation Issues

Non-native exotic plants have invaded woodlands and non-native grasses have been cultivated in open areas around Civil War monuments. According to a study done for the park by The Nature Conservancy in 1996 and 1997, twenty-eight percent of the plant species found in the park are considered exotic (not native to the state). Control measures are unknown and should be explored. More recently, the park has considered forest clearing so certain tracts can be returned to the way they appeared during the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, a process known as battlefield restoration. Any clearing should be preceded by careful reviews to ensure that significant erosion of Loess Hill bluffs does not occur and that the value of any forests to birds be considered before clearing commences. This heavily visited park is an ideal site for educating the public about migratory birds and habitat conservation. More education programs, such as lectures and regular bird walks, should be explored.

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