Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge
Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, located on the southern shore of Long Island, is home to more than 240 species of birds. Wertheim Refuge is the core federally protected area in the Carmens River Estuary. The estuary is recognized as an Audubon Important Bird Area in the state of New York. The federally protected refuge is a crucial stopover for migrating shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds.
Phragmites, also known as the common reed, has infested and degraded more than half of the refuge's valuable marshes. Thriving in habitat disturbed by human activities, Phragmites outcompetes native plants and replaces them with dense, monospecific stands unusable as nesting and feeding sites for many bird species.
Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Suffolk County Vector Control have partnered with Refuge staff to eradicate Phragmites. They have used two different approaches: Open Water Marsh Management (OMWM) and herbicide applications followed by thatch removal via mowing or prescribed fire. Approximately 275 acres have been restored since efforts started in 2005. The restored brackish water plants created improved habitat for sandpipers, raptors and wading birds.
Bird species such as black duck, great egret, glossy ibis, snowy egret, greater yellowlegs, northern harrier and short-eared owl now forage on these sites. The native vegetative coverage and species richness is expected to increase for several growing seasons as a result of efforts to eradicate or control Phragmites.
Threat to Birds
Wertheim Refuge was established to protect migratory birds like the American Black Duck, which is included on Audubon's nationwide WatchList of birds of conservation concern. American Black Duck populations have declined dramatically in recent years, mainly due to habitat loss. On Wertheim Refuge, invasive Phragmites is stripping the American Black Duck of the open water marshes it needs for feeding.