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Buckhorn Island Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The Buckhorn Island BCA (part of Buckhorn Island State Park) is within the Niagara River corridor, and is crossed by a heavily traveled international highway, which makes the marsh one of the state's most visible wetlands and a highly visible site for demonstrating wetland restoration. Its ecological position as one of the two largest remaining marshes on the Niagara River necessitates proper stewardship. The area is a significant concentration area for large numbers and diverse species of gulls. Buckhorn Island will continue to support gull populations, as well as a diverse waterfowl population. The marsh at Buckhorn provides important nesting habitat for listed species such as least bittern, northern harrier and sedge wren. The marsh serves as a feeding, resting and breeding area for ducks, coots, moorhens, and rails. Common terns find suitable habitat for foraging here.

Site Map

Buckhorn Island BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Buckhorn Island Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Western District; site also includes a designated Department of State Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

Location: Erie County, Town of Grand Island. This area is in Buckhorn Island State Park, which is located at the northern end of Grand Island on the Niagara River.

Size of Area: 640 acres

DEC Region: 9

OPRHP Region: Niagara

Vision Statement: Limited recreational opportunities and access will continue in a manner consistent with conservation of the diverse assemblage of bird species using the area. This area will also serve as an important resource for research into the conservation of bird diversity and for environmental interpretation and education.

Key BCA Criteria: Migratory concentration site; waterfowl concentration site; diverse species concentration site; species at risk site; bird research site (ECL §11-2001, 3.e, f, h and i.). Listed species include northern harrier (threatened), common tern (threatened), sedge wren (threatened) and least bittern (threatened). Additional birds of interest include a variety of species of ducks, herons, coots, moorhens, and rails. Spring and fall migrations along the Niagara River corridor can bring large numbers of gulls (several species) to this site.

Critical Habitat Types: The primary habitat type is the marsh area. It is one of the largest marsh areas associated with the Niagara River corridor. Shoreline habitat is also present. There is a small amount of upland forest adjacent to the marsh shoreline.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    The water level of the Niagara River fluctuates daily, depending on the volume of water diverted for the American and Canadian hydro-power projects. This fluctuation impacts the quality of the marsh habitat. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) have, in cooperation with the Town of Grand Island, and several other agencies and organizations, spearheaded a restoration effort to provide more consistent water levels and to provide more open water in the marsh. Planned restoration includes construction of two low level overtopping weirs east of I-190. The weirs will allow the marsh to fill during the daily high river levels and then retain water more consistently during nightly river draw downs. To facilitate flow into the marsh and to restore open water habitat, hydraulic dredging is also being accomplished.
  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    None identified.
  • 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.
    Uses are low intensity and consistent with the BCA designation. Signs, enforcement and trail markings will be improved to increase awareness of the area as a BCA, and improve patron compliance with environmental protection guidelines.
  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    None identified.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    The park has several trails including a bike/hike trail being constructed as part of the restoration activities. As indicated above, trail systems will be enhanced through clearer signs and marking. In addition, two non-intrusive wildlife overlooks with associated parking facilities will be incorporated adjacent to I-190.
  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Continue outreach through Park information brochures, signs and park interpretive staff. DEC and OPRHP cooperative efforts in interpretation and education will continue. Interpretive display project initiated in 1999 should be completed in near future.
  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Establish and maintain a system for continued monitoring and assessment of the bird populations and their diversity. DEC and OPRHP staff will continue to work closely together in the restoration effort.

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Albany, 518-474-0409

Barry Virgilio, OPRHP, Niagara Reservation, 716-278-1780

DEC Region 9 Office, 716-851-7010

New York State Department of State. 1993. Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat Narrative.

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

Date BCA Designated: 8/31/98

Date MGS Prepared: 12/6/00

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