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Letchworth Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The Letchworth BCA is located within Letchworth State Park, a 17 mile long park along the Genesee River in Livingston and Wyoming Counties. The river has carved a gorge though the middle of the park that is as deep as 550 feet in some places, earning it the nickname, "Grand Canyon of the East". Evaluation of the BCA criteria for designation has shown that most of the Park qualifies as a BCA. Letchworth State Park is also an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Letchworth BCA supports concentrations of waterfowl, wading birds and migratory birds. It is important for the diverse array of species which can be found there as well as being particularly important for a number of individual species, including species at risk.

Letchworth BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Letchworth BCA

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Location: Wyoming County, Towns of Genesee Falls, Castile and Perry; Livingston County, Towns of Portage and Mount Morris

Size of Area: 9,700 acres

DEC Regions: 8 and 9

OPRHP Region: Genesee

Vision Statement: The Letchworth BCA will be managed to achieve an appropriate balance between conservation of the diverse assemblage of bird species using the area for breeding or during migration, and access to and recreational use of various areas of the BCA.

Key BCA Criteria: Waterfowl concentration site; wading bird concentration site; migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site and species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.a, d, e, f, g, and h). Open water below the Mt. Morris dam may attract in excess of 2,000 Canada geese in winter. There are several great blue heron rookeries in the BCA with a total of over 100 nests. Of 75 species of Neotropical migratory songbirds, 64 are found in the BCA; of these 46 are confirmed breeders (plus 3 rare breeders). The BCA supports suites of birds associated with forest, rivers and shrub habitats. All of the forest, grassland and shrub/scrub species for which we have high regional responsibility are found here including breeding sharp-shinned hawk, black-billed cuckoo, eastern wood-pewee, wood thrush, cerulean warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, killdeer, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, American woodcock, willow flycatcher, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, golden-winged warbler, eastern towhee and field sparrow. More than 30 species of warblers have been recorded in the park with 25 confirmed breeders. There are an estimated 534 pairs of hooded warblers and 110 pairs of mourning warblers. This is one of the few sites in upstate New York with breeding yellow-breasted chats. Winter roosts of 15-20 turkey vultures have been confirmed. As many as 200 turkey vultures may be observed on a single day in the summer. State listed birds confirmed as breeders in the park include Threatened bald eagle and Special Concern sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern goshawk, red-shouldered hawk, red-headed woodpecker, golden-winged warbler, cerulean warbler, vesper sparrow and grasshopper sparrow. Species that exceeded the IBA species at risk threshold are American woodcock, willow flycatcher, wood thrush, blue-winged warbler, cerulean warbler, Canada warbler, yellow-breasted chat and rusty blackbird.

Critical Habitat Types: Letchworth is bisected along its entire length by the Genesee River. A six-mile long gorge, as deep as 550 feet, provides habitat for turkey vulture, bald eagle, and between 700-760 feet yellow-breasted chats. About 2/3 of the BCA is dominated by upland forest including Appalachian oak-hickory, hemlock-northern hardwoods, maple-basswood rich mesic forests and successional northern hardwoods. Breeding birds associated with this habitat include sharp-shinned hawk, wood thrush, and rose-breasted grosbeak. Successional shrublands support breeding brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, golden-winged warbler, eastern towhee and field sparrow. Breeding killdeer, bobolink and eastern meadowlark are found in the successional old fields. The heron rookeries are usually found in wooded swamps; a conifer plantation has also been used. Grasslands are important as historical nesting sites for northern harrier, upland sandpiper and Henslow's sparrow.

Operation and Management Considerations:

Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
Most of the park is managed in ways that are beneficial to birds. However, changes in water level from the Mount Morris Federal Flood Control Dam have the potential to negatively impact birds. OPRHP staff will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that, to the extent possible, bird conservation is taken into consideration when making decisions that affect water levels. Maintenance of successional old fields is necessary to support birds such as bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks.

Grassland habitat should be managed to maintain habitat for northern harrier, upland sandpiper, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow's sparrow and other grassland species.

Effects of sustained deer browsing constitute one of the greatest threats to the forests. There are considerable observations on the adverse impacts of deer in the area around the administration building. Information on size of the deer population at Letchworth and their movement in and out of the park by season and their impacts needs to be documented in a report. Alternative methods to control the deer population should be explored. Short term and long term plans for deer management should be developed.

Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
Northern harrier, upland sandpiper, grasshopper and Henslow's sparrow nest or have nested in the past. Mowing should take place after August 15th to assure successful nesting attempts by these species.

Identify state activities or operations that 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.
There are no state activities that pose a threat to critical habitats.

Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
Recreational impacts will be managed consistent with preservation and protection of the natural resources.

If bald eagles nest in the park, designation of a restricted area or re-routing of a hiking trail may be necessary to minimize disturbance to nesting birds. Similar management recommendations would apply to state listed Special Concern raptors including breeding red-shouldered hawk, Cooper's hawk and northern goshawk.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
Existing access is adequate.

Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
Letchworth has a strong environmental education/interpretation program. Trails, seminars, informal talks, exhibits, checklists, demonstrations and guided walks will continue to communicate an appreciation for the diversity of birds and presence of species at risk.

The "Birds of Letchworth State Park" checklist, published by OPRHP, will be updated.

A BCA kiosk will be designed and installed in an appropriate location.

Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
Studies should be undertaken to determine potential beneficial and adverse impacts of controlled and managed burns within the BCA. If it is determined that such controlled burns will have beneficial ecological effects, detailed controlled burning plans should be developed.

Deer browsing is impacting the understory. The extent to which impacts have occurred requires documentation.

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Ray Perry, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Roland Beck, Letchworth State Park, phone: 585-493-3600
Douglas Bassett, Letchworth State Park phone: 585-493-3600

Burger, M.F. and J.M. Liner. 2005. Important Bird Areas of New York, Second Edition. Audubon New York, Albany, NY

Evans, D.J., P. Novak and T. W. Weldy. 2001. Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Letchworth State Park. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2004. Supplemental Report Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Letchworth State Park

New York State Breeding Bird Atlas 2000, Maps and Species Lists.

Smith, C. R. and S. K. Gregory. Bird Habitats in New York State in Bull's Bird of New York, E. Levine, ed. Federation of New York State Bird Clubs and American Museum of Natural History, 1998

Date Designated: 9/25/06