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Montezuma Wetlands Complex Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: This BCA consists of Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area and is part of a larger complex of state, federal and private lands. The habitats include high quality wetlands bordered by deciduous forest, shrub/scrub and open agricultural fields. The site hosts one of the largest migratory concentrations of waterfowl in the Northeast. Over 500,000 Canada geese pass through the complex during migration. During spring migration, over 15,000 snow geese regularly use the area. In late fall, mallard numbers peak at 100,000 and American black ducks at 25,000 or more. This BCA is one of the most significant stopover and foraging locations for shorebirds in upstate New York, regularly hosting 1,000 or more individuals of 25 species. The site supports breeding colonies of great blue heron and black-crowned night heron and hosts one of the largest fall swallow concentrations in the state, sometimes estimated at more than 50,000-100,000 individuals. The area also supports a large breeding population of cerulean warbler. Grassland management is also underway and provides opportunity for breeding grassland birds and wintering raptors, such as short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk and northern harrier..

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Montezuma Wetlands Complex BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Montezuma Wetlands Complex Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Wayne County, Town of Savannah; Cayuga County, Town of Conquest.

Size of Area: 7,500 acres

DEC Region: 7, 8

Vision Statement: Continue management to conserve the wetland-dependent bird and wildlife species using the area, as well as those utilizing associated adjacent habitats. Develop systems for monitoring status of bird species, especially state-listed species, at the site and in response to landscape level restoration and management.

Key BCA Criteria: Waterfowl concentration site; shorebird concentration site; wading bird concentration site; migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; species at risk site; bird research site (ECL §11-2001, 3.a, c, d, e, f, g, h and i). Listed species include bald eagle (threatened), peregrine falcon (endangered), black tern (endangered), pied-billed grebe (threatened), least bittern (threatened), northern harrier (threatened), short-eared owl (endangered), American bittern (special concern), osprey (special concern), cerulean warbler (special concern).

Critical Habitat Types: High quality wetlands bordered by deciduous forest and shrub/scrub, open agricultural fields, and grasslands provide diverse habitat for bird species. Riparian wetlands provide open water and flood plain forests. Unique habitats include bogs and inland salt marshes. Exemplary ecological communities include: deep emergent marsh, shallow emergent marsh, shrub swamp, forested wetlands.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Protect existing and potential wildlife habitat. Restore and enhance wetlands by restoring hydrology and controlling invasive species. Establish grassland habitat. Manage lands to support biodiversity. Monitor and protect unique, rare, threatened and endangered species and habitats.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Removal of vegetation during nesting season (May-July) could disturb breeding birds. Water levels need to be appropriate for waterfowl during spring and fall migration and shorebirds during fall migration.

  • Identify state activities or operations which may pose a threat to the critical habitat types identified above; recommend alternatives to existing and future operations which may pose threats to those habitats.
    Ensure that bird conservation concerns are addressed in management plans. Bird conservation is among the highest priorities in protecting, restoring, and managing the area.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    Uses are generally low intensity and consistent with BCA designation. Signs, enforcement and trail markings could be improved to increase awareness of the area as a BCA, and improve public compliance with environmental protection guidelines. A major goal shared by the partners in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex is to encourage recreational and educational use of public lands in ways that are compatible with wildlife needs. Increased public use will serve to increase public awareness and appreciation of natural resources and also potentially benefit the economics of local communities. As public use increases, greater attention must be placed on access points, trails, and restricted area enforcement.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Access to most areas is adequate, though in some areas trail systems could be enhanced through maps, clearer signs, and marking.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Develop interpretative materials about priority bird species. Partner with Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, National Audubon Society of New York, Ducks Unlimited, local Audubon chapters and bird clubs to develop education programs that highlight importance of area to diversity of bird species. Develop birding trail map and continue involvement in "Montezuma Muckrace" event. [Updated information: in 2007, DEC opened an education center in Savannah which is being operated by AudubonNY.]

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    • Establish and maintain a system for continued inventory and monitoring of priority bird species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and state-listed species at local and landscape levels.
    • GIS Program for monitoring and planning.
    • Comprehensive assessment of hydrology and biogeochemistry.
    • Compilation of baseline data on wildlife populations and vegetative communities, including but not limited to: waterfowl, marsh birds, neo-tropical migrants, threatened and endangered species, and unique habitats.
    • Invasive species management research, particularly for purple loosestrife.
    • Landscape effects of wetland restoration and upland management.
    • Human dimensions analysis including public use, adjacent landowners, agriculture and neighboring communities.

Other Issues: Objectives regarding other important natural and cultural resource issues include: promoting and improving water quality and management; preserve and promote agricultural activities compatible with wildlife needs; protect archaeological interests and activities compatible with wildlife needs; encourage economic growth of local communities based on nature-based tourism.

DEC Region 7 Wildlife Manager, 607-753-3095

DEC Region 8 Wildlife Manager, 585-226-5460

Refuge Manager, USFWS, 315-568-5987

DEC Wildlife Biologist at NMWMA, 315-365-2134


Wells, J. V. 1998. Important Bird Areas in New York State. National Audubon Society, Albany, New York.

Date BCA Designated: 5/5/00

Date MGS Prepared: 8/1/01, revised 1/15/10

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